Rhubarb: There’s a Reason We Call it the Pie Plant
Those crisp, ruby red stalks of rhubarb have arrived at our local farmers markets. I’m gaga for the pie plant, which marries best with strawberries in sweet desserts. But every year I try to attempt unusual rhubarb creations. No more. This plant really belongs in pies and crisps.
I made a wheatberry salad with rhubarb-mint dressing (see below) for the seasonal Ten Rivers Food Web recipe contest. The goal is to use as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible in your recipe. I didn’t win one of the prices for the top three dishes, but I did at least get a shout out for even using locally grown recipes. I had also entered this contest last winter with my chickpea-leek soup. I’ll enter again with the fall contest. Maybe third time is the charm?
But really I’ve concluded that rhubarb’s place is in desserts. I do recommend keeping it crisp through a sweet macerating marinade rather than fully cooking it, as I have done before with this New York Times recipe: “Crisp Rhubarb in a Sweet Broth” (page 2). Later this week, I’ll be cooking and posting about a “Strawberry, Rhubarb and Red Banana Crostata” I’m making from the Tra Vigne Cookbook. It’s a crisp/cobbler made with polenta and toasted anise seeds. Stay tuned!
Wheatberry Salad With Rhubarb-Mint Dressing
Adapted from Terrance Brennan in a Mark Bittman NY Times column
1 hour 30 minutes
* 1 cup wheatberries (grown locally by Stahlford Seed Farms for the Beans & Grain Project)
* About 1 pound rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed, peeled if necessary, and diced, about 1 3/4 cups (from Gathering Together Farm)
* 1 cup sauterne or other sweet wine (I used local Eola Hills Vin d’Epice 2006 Oregon Gewürztraimer)
* 1 tablespoon honey (from MiteBee Farm Inc. in Corvallis)
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 2 cloves
* 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
* 1 inch knob ginger
*pinch of grated nutmeg
*1 star anise
* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* Freshly ground pepper
* 2 tablespoons chopped mint (from Gathering Together Farm and my garden)
* 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I used some Oregon hazelnuts too)
* 4 to 5 cups mixed greens (mesclun from Gathering Together Farm)
1. Simmer the wheatberries and 2 teaspoons of salt in water to cover for 1 1/4 hours, or until the wheatberries are tender but not mushy. Cool.
2. In a small, nonreactive sauce pot, combine 1 cup rhubarb with the wine, honey, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft.
3. Drain, reserving liquid; return the liquid to the pan, and bring it to a boil. Add the remaining uncooked rhubarb, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until tender. Drain, reserving liquid again.
4. Remove the cloves, ginger and star anise from the first batch of cooked rhubarb, and place it in a blender along with the reserved liquid. Turn the blender to medium, and add the oil slowly; blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the mint.
5. Place the wheatberries in a bowl, along with the remaining rhubarb, walnuts, 4 tablespoons of the dressing, and some salt and pepper. Divide among six plates; toss the mesclun with 3 tablespoons of the dressing, and place portions of it on the wheatberries. Drizzle the remaining dressing around the salad, and serve.