Profile: Designer Titian Rutkin
Titian Rutkin is a very good cook. The other day, we were drinking iced teas and lemonades in a café not too far from her apartment in Silver Lake, a neighborhood in Los Angeles. We compared sentimental notes on growing up eating good, homespun Central European dishes: goulash, spaetzle, stewed red cabbage, and stollen.
In her case, it was in the small Connecticut town of Killingly, located about 70 miles southwest of Boston, where she was raised—along with her twin sister and older brother—by a German mother and Jewish-American father, both excellent cooks.
“My mom was born in Germany and came to the States when she was around seven,” she said. Most of her family is from Berg, a suburb of Munich. This is where Titian went to spend summer holidays with her relatives every other year. Titian’s German grandmother, who settled in Florida but would visit over the holidays, was a great influence.
“My Omi was an amazing woman,” she continued. “She was very crafty, very hands-on. She loved to make things; she was a woodcarver and woodworker.” And a good cook as well. At Christmas, she would teach Titian and her siblings how to bake traditional German cookies: almond crescent, shortbread half-dipped in chocolate, and linzer. “I remember having so much fun using tweezers and decorating sugar cookies.”
All that, plus her father’s Jewish background—“His challah is fantastic”—as well as living in Southern California, inform what Titian eats and cooks in her own kitchen.
She bakes pies—“peach in summer, pumpkin in winter”—coffee cakes, crumbles and pound cakes. She makes strawberry jam, loves caramelized onions, and snacks on avocado toast (thick slice of sourdough, toasted, with mashed-up avocado, Maldon salt and black pepper). In winter, she takes out her Dutch oven for hearty stews and soups.
“And then I text my friends and neighbors to come over and help me eat it,” she added, smiling.
Age 34 — Hometown Killingly, CT — Where do you live? Silver Lake (Los Angeles) — Occupation Currently working as a sweater technical designer — Signature dish Not sure I have one, but there is a [linzer] cookie I get requests for — Who taught you how to cook? My parents — Favorite kitchen tool The toaster? — Always in your pantry Mustards — Go-to snack I like peeled carrots as a road trip snack — Favorite cuisine Asian and Mediterranean are two favorites — Do you diet? No — Food addictions The canele from Proof Bakery — Food allergies Hazelnuts sometimes — Food fad pet peeve The word artisanal is way overused — Who’s your sous chef? Me! — Drinking while cooking? Sure — What’s for dinner tonight? Might order pizza — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No tears—probably some light swearing followed by laughter — Best meal you ever had The first time I ever had fresh crab with my family up in Washington
Gluten-Free Rhubarb–Strawberry Crumble
You can make this mouth-watering crumble with many types of fruit—peaches, nectarines and blueberries come to mind—but the rhubarb–strawberry combo is a flawless classic: an amalgamation of tart and sweet, red and green, dense and delicate, with a crunchy layer of caramelized brown sugar-oat on top, and redolent of cinnamon and butter.
The recipe comes from Titian’s mom, who creates different fruit combinations depending on what’s currently ripening in her Connecticut garden.
Rhubarb looks like celery—long, pink-green, stringy stalks—and is usually available from April till July. If you live in California, like me, you might be able to find it at farmers’ markets until late September. It is very easy to handle: You just have to cut off the root end and peel the outer, tougher layer. A vegetable peeler will do the job.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, no problem—you will love the light and nutty taste of the oat-rice flour topping. If you’re gluten-tolerant, great—you won’t notice a difference.
To make ¾ cup of oat flour, place one cup of old-fashioned rolled oats into a blender or food processor, and process until powdery—it only takes few seconds.
The last thing you have to do is whip up some cream or unseal the vanilla Haagen-Dazs container and serve.
- Serves 4–6
- 1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Pinch salt
- 1 pound rhubarb, peeled, cut into ¼-inch slices (about 4 cups)
- ¾ pound strawberries, hulled, cut in half (about 3 cups)
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¾ cup oat flour
- ¼ cup rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 egg
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the middle.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add the rhubarb and strawberries, and gently toss to coat.
- In another medium bowl, sift together the sugar, oat and rice flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oats. Break in the egg and mix with your hands until it’s combined and the mixture is crumbly.
- Place the fruit mixture in an ovenproof 10-inch skillet or pie pan, or an 8x8-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar (optional). Drizzle the melted butter over the topping and place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet to prevent any fruit juice drippings in your oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit bubbling, about 50–60 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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