the portable pie: a strawberry, rhubarb, and lemon crostata!

happy memorial day, everyone!  i hope you are all enjoying a relaxing day off!  it seems to me that memorial day is one of the biggest cook-out and grill-fest days of the year.  while dad cooks up those brats and mom cuts the watermelon, let me share a delicious, portable, and summery dessert that should make your whole family happy!

when my mom and her brothers and sisters were growing up, my grandparents had a rhubarb plant in the backyard.  around this time of the year, the rhubarb would start to grow tall and fast, resembling blood-red celery.  its tart, fruity flavor was always one my mom loved, and she’d go out back with a sugar shaker and eat it right out of the garden.  to this day, she still loves rhubarb and waits patiently for it to show up at our local grocery.

this year, i thought i would make something with rhubarb that was a little more rustic than a lattice-topped pie, but equally as delicious.  i walked by the most gorgeous strawberries at the market and picked up a pint, snagged a bright yellow lemon, and four long stalks of rhubarb.  i wanted to make something that could be slicked apart and eaten without a knife and a fork.  so, with a final stop at the dairy section, i picked out my favorite prepared pie crust and headed home to make a strawberry, lemon, and rhubarb crostata.

okay, wait, what is a crostata?  its a fancy name for a free-form pie.  don’t have a pie plate?  no problem!  don’t want to spend all that time crimping pie edges and latticing the top?  you don’t have to!  want to make an adorable and portable version of any pie?  then the crostata is just the thing for you!  we’ll get to how to form this mythical pastry in a moment.  but first:  the filling.

here’s what you’ll need for the crostata filling: (makes two crostatas)
-3 cups of rhubarb, chopped
-3 cups of strawberries, sliced or quartered
-2/3 c. packed brown sugar (dark or light)
-1/3 c. granulated sugar (depending on how sweet your strawberries are)
-1/4 c. cornstarch
-2 tbsp. lemon juice
-2 tbsp. lemon zest
-1 tsp. cinnamon
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 egg (for egg wash)

first, cut off the woody ends of the rhubarb stalks and discard them.  then, with a sharp knife, slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces.  quarter or slice your strawberries and toss them in with the rhubarb.

next, add the brown sugar, white sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt, and toss making sure all the fruit is coated with the mixture.  then, add the lemon juice and lemon zest for a tangy kick and to prevent the fruit from turning brown.

then, take the pie dough from the box and spread out one 9-inch round on an aluminum-lined baking sheet.  place half of the filling in the center of the dough, making sure to leave a generous two-inch border all the way around.

once the filling is in the center, fold one side of the dough up so that it overlaps the edge of the filling.  then, continuing around the crostata, fold more and more of the dough over itself (overlapping as you fold) and on to the filling of the pie.  make sure to leave the center uncovered– you want to see the fruit poking through!  repeat this process with the other pie crust and place them next to each other on the baking sheet.

finally, brush the outside of the pies with a little egg wash (one beaten egg, a splash of water) and sprinkle the top with a healthy amount of sugar.  this gives the pie a shiny finish and a sweet crunch.  i like to add a little fresh lemon zest right on the top!

bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes, checking on it throughout and rotating the sheet halfway through.  depending upon the amount of filling and the thickness of your crust, the crostatas could take even around an hour to finish baking.  just keep an eye on them until they are bubbly and golden brown.

when they emerge from the oven, let them cool for 20 minutes!  i know you don’t want to.  but you must, or else you’ll have a very burned roof of your mouth.  (trust me, i made this mistake!)  once they are cooled, leave them just as they are or serve with serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  if you have the foresight to make them in advance, they should hold up to slicing and eating even without a plate!

the combination of strawberry, rhubarb, and lemon brings back summer memories of my own childhood, and i hope you make this delicious dessert and make memories with your family, too :)