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Food We Love: Here’s a yummy dessert to try before summer ends

Welcome to Food We Love, our Sun-Times video series featuring stories about Chicagoans family food traditions, secret recipes, special ingredients and unusual favorite dishes.  Each week we’ll hear a new story about food and family and learn some amazing recipes that you can try at home. Our host is Chicago journalist Linda Yu who loves cooking at home, as well as exploring new restaurants throughout the city.  

Today’s episode: Learning to make a strawberry-rhubarb crisp 

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

A perfect summer dessert: strawberry-rhubarb crisp

What do you do with rhubarb? There are people who know how to make delicious pies, jams, even lemonade with rhubarb. I’m not one of them. But Michael Ciapciak of Bang Bang Pies and Biscuits has changed all that for me. Now I know how to make a scrumptious strawberry rhubarb crisp!

But I’m getting ahead of myself …. first, I learned how passionate Michael is about fresh fruits in season and getting them at his favorite Lincoln Square Farmers Market.

The path to owning a Chicago pie shop

The reason is that he uses all that fresh-from-the-farm fruit for the pies served up every season at Bang Bang. Michael and his three brothers and sisters grew up in a home that stressed the family dinner table. They also helped their mom in the kitchen, so they learned how to cook and associated it with fun, togetherness and love. It’s also what led Michael to a career in food and hospitality. He got a job at New York city’s famous Gramercy Tavern, working his way up to manager. Other restaurants followed, and eventually he came to Chicago to manage one of this city’s elite restaurants, Tru. Next came a four-year stint traveling the world as restaurant and hotel critic for Forbes, which further honed Michael’s fine dining palette.

But Michael realized he wanted a family dinner table tradition for his own young family as well as people he could feed, so he decided to settle down in Chicago. Opening in 2012, Bang Bang Pie was Michael’s idea of a cafe where people could feel comfortable coming a few times a week for coffee, tea and pie … or even walk in every morning for breakfast. After all, they’ll find sweet and savory pies, biscuits chock full of goodies, potpies, grits and even granola.

So many hungry diners flocked to Bang Bang Pie in Logan Square that a couple years ago, Michael opened a second cafe in Ravenswood. He has boundless energy and loves spreading the word about what he calls “Midwestern soul food.”

Fresh fruit is the key to this strawberry-rhubarb crisp by Bang Bang Pie Shop. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Fresh fruit is the key to this strawberry-rhubarb crisp by Bang Bang Pie Shop. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

I like the idea that Michael taught me how to make a classic dessert that feeds your soul, not to mention your taste buds and your tummy. “Easy Peasy” strawberry-rhubarb crisp is a recipe Michael learned from his mother. It’s only six ingredients and a couple of mixing bowls. Watch us on the Sun-Times to learn how easy it is to also make the crumble that goes on top. It’s so good, our Sun-Times crew gobbled up the whole thing in minutes just after we finished filming the episode!

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Bang Bang Pie's Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

    Filling ingredients

    • 2 lbs. rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces
    • 1 lb. strawberries, stem removed (half or quartered; leave whole if small)
    • 1 ¼ cups sugar
    • ¼ cup cornstarch
    • 2 tsp. orange juice
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


    • In a medium bowl mix rhubarb and and strawberries together.
    • In separate bowl combine all dry ingredients and mix evenly.
    • In another container combine orange juice and vanilla. Pour over fruit.
    • Add dry ingredients to mix, combine well. Place in baking dish and set aside.

    Crumble topping ingredients

    • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 ½ cups sugar
    • 2 tsps. salt
    • ½ lb. unsalted chilled butter, chopped


    • Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mesh butter into mix with hands until crumbly.
    • Spread evenly over fruit filling.
    • Bake at 365 degrees for 45 minutes (until fruit is bubbling and topping is a golden brown).
    • Serve with fresh whipped cream or your favorite ice cream.


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    Watch more “Food We Love” episodes

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.” Check the links below to watch Linda’s other #foodwelove videos. Each one has a great story plus recipes for you to try at home. You can also follow Linda on social media to get the latest on her CST series.

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