Some of First Lady Michelle Obama's student helpers snacked on just-picked raw rhubarb from her Kitchen Garden during a special harvest on June 4th, somewhat to the amazement of the gathered adults. The giant, sour stalks were a new taste for the kids, which is one reason Mrs. Obama started her project--to introduce children to the many wonders of vegetables. (Above, Mrs. Obama with chef Marcus Samuelsson, helpers, and rhubarb at the harvest)
The First Lady has noted President Obama's affection for rhubarb, though he typically prefers it in dessert form. And Mrs. Obama's guests, students from Hollin Meadows Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, got to taste rhubarb the Presidential way, too. Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses whipped up a Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp, cooking it gardenside with the help of the kids.
Crisps--and crumbles and pies--are frequently served on White House dessert menus, so much so that Yosses has earned the Presidential nickname "The Crustmaster." His harvest recipe, reprinted below, is easy enough even for a novice cook. Yosses is a crisp master, too.
"It is a special privilege to make desserts at the White House," Yosses (l) recently wrote in the tenth anniversary issue of Gastronomica. "I am proud that the First Family has chosen healthy and locally sourced ingredients for their meals. Desserts can be healthy, I am convinced, if they are made with quality ingredients and served in judicious portions."
The harvest was in honor of the launch of Chefs Move To Schools, the newest Let's Move! project, designed to pair professional chefs with schools to boost nutrition education and help improve lunch menus. The First Lady has high-profile support for her initiative: Celeb chefs Cat Cora, Tom Colicchio, Ellie Krieger, and Marcus Samuelsson joined the harvest fun, and also gave the kids gardenside cooking lessons, joined by Executive Chef Cris Comerford and assistant chef Sam Kass, the mastermind behind the garden.
It was blazingly hot as Mrs. Obama and her crew also harvested baby spinach, arugula, broccoli, fennel, and lettuces. That was followed by the cooking lesson, using veggies straight from the ground for a grilled chicken salad and raw veggies with dip. The Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp was the sweet treat for the end of a picnic that was enjoyed beneath shade trees beside the garden.
Yosses' recipe uses a food processor and is cooked in one deep baking dish. It includes cardamom and cinnamon, oats, butter, corn starch, lemon, salt and two kinds of sugar, as well as strawberries to sweeten the rhubarb. Enjoy judiciously.
*Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
For Crisp Topping:
*8 Oz Butter
*2 1/4 Cups Flour
*2/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
*1/2 Cup Sugar
*1/2 Cup Minute Oats
*2 Lbs Rhubarb (cut in chunks, strings peeled)
*1 Lb Strawberries (halved & hulled)
*1/3 Cup Sugar
*1 Tsp Lemon Juice
*3 Tbsp Corn Starch
*1/4 Tsp Ground Cardamom
*1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
For Crisp Topping:
1. Cut butter in small chunks.
2. Combine flour, sugar, light brown sugar, and butter in a food processor. Pulse on low, briefly.
3. Add oats, and pulse again until mixed. You want a combination of crumbly pieces, in varying sizes, but not "powder." Set aside.
1. Toss rhubarb with lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and corn starch.
2. Add strawberries and toss again, briefly.
3. Transfer fruit/sugar ingredients to baking dish, and cover with crisp crumble. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the fruits are bubbling.
*Serve judicious portions, warm. Top with unsweetened whipped cream.
Photo above recipe: Chef Cat Cora shows a child chef how to chop rhubarb at the gardenside prep table.
Related: Check the sidebar for all White House recipes. Chef Yosses' new cookbook, The Perfect Finish, has just been published. His recipe for White House Apple Pie is here; healthy Fruit and Oat Snack Bars is here; Honey Cupcakes is here.
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama