Posts Tagged ‘rhubarb’
I’ve almost forgotten how to blog. It’s a muscle, like any other, that’s best exercised frequently. In lieu of blogging, I’ve been busy penning “The Farm-to-Table Family” column weekly for the Portland Press-Herald’s new Sunday food and sustainability SOURCE section. Now, I just need to learn how to dash off those columns as quickly as I once did midnight blog posts.
Recipe-wise, the cookbooks I’ve found most inspiring of late are those of former Chez Panisse chef, David Tanis. You might know him from his excellent weekly New York Times’s “City Kitchen” column. The man has impeccable taste. I’m particularly inspired by everything in his latest book, One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal, which I’m long-overdue to return to the library. I can’t let it go.
Before I do, I want to encourage you to try his “Mussels on the Half-Shell” (page 73). I skipped the breadcrumbed-hot version in favor of cold mussels on the half-shell with a tarragon-vinaigrette sauce drizzled atop. They’d make for dramatic presentation at your next cocktail party, or just a simple summer meal to enjoy alone. “Mussels on the Half-Shell” doesn’t mean they’re raw–you steam them open first in olive oil, then chill. You can’t go wrong. Especially when you find wild mussels from Stonington at Justin’s Seafood in Hallowell for only 99 cents a pound. I got three pounds a few weeks ago. Sure, one of those pounds had perished by the time I got them home, but I didn’t worry since they were so cheap. The remaining two pounds were sweet and delicious. Note to self: keep the bag open enough so mussels can breathe. The guy at the counter said wild mussels are sweeter. Is that true? They were small and more beige than orange.
We also enjoyed a smidge of seared Atlantic yellow tail tuna tataki, with avocado, black sesame, scallions and cilantro, with a soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, Korean gochujang, maple syrup and ume plum vinegar dressing. Seafood delight!
I realized it was finally time to use that gallon-size bag of sliced rhubarb I had frozen when I saw the ruby-red stalks poking up through the mulch in the garden. I couldn’t get enough rhubarb last spring. I think I o.d.-ed on the stuff last April and May, returning home with big bunches of it every time I visited the farmers market. But I never touched that frozen bag of it last fall or winter. I think, as with asparagus and blackberries, and of course, fresh tomatoes, I just prefer to eat my heart out when it’s in season and then abstain until the fresh crop emerges the following spring or summer. That first fresh bite never tastes as good as their frozen counterpart from last season.
So before rhubarb arrives, I’m trying to use up the frozen stuff. I made a soupy strawberry-rhubarb crisp last night, with the frozen local strawberries I also ignored this winter. I might make rhubarb compote/syrup with the remaining chunks. The rhubarb crop should be early this year, if my garden is any indication. It’s amazing how the perennial plant completely dies back, disappears, when it gets cold, only to reappear again, through its mulchy mound, come February. But I might not crave the tart pie plant as much this spring, since I’m indulging in the frozen stuff now.
What will you make with it once rhubarb season begins? On second thought, maybe you should freeze some so once cherries are in season, you’ll have enough on hand to make this fabulous Bing cherry-rhubarb brown betty I discovered last season.
Thankfully cherries have come full into season just before we quit town. We’re having our fill. Instead of a lemonade stand, a little boy down the street sells Bing cherries, $1 a pint, from the family’s backyard trees. What a steal. I’ve bought six pints worth.
What a sweet yet firm flesh the Bing’s have.
I’ve also had delicious first-to-ripen French Burlats here, which taste like Bings but have much more fragile flesh.
So what to make for dessert with such luscious, fleeting fruit? Luckily, my review copy of Rustic Fruit Desserts arrived just in time. If you, like me, always order fruit over chocolate at the end of a meal, this book is for you. Better yet, it’s written by Portlanders Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. Looking forward to having them on the radio show to discuss the book.
Immediately, their Rhubarb and Bing Cherry Brown Betty appealed to me for its simplicity. Spring rhubarb and summer cherries to bridge the seasons. I took a shortcut by using store-bought Lorna Doone Shortbread for the topping but feel free to make your own. And Grand Marinier was a fine substitute for kirsch or brandy. Nor did I butter my pan, but since it was silicone nothing stuck.
Here’s the recipe (from Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson, June 2009):
Baking Time: 45 minutes/ Serves 8 to 12
2 tableslespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, for pan
1 pound vanilla bean shortbread, crushed (approximately 18 cookies, or 4 cups crushed)
1 cup (7 ounches) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/4 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 6 cups or 1 1/2 pounds prepped)
2 cups (12 ounces) Bing cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted (can substitute any other sweet cherry variety)
2 tablespoons kirsch or brandy
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter a 3-quart bakign dish.
Rub the sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl, then add the rhubarb and cherries and toss to combine. Stir in the liquor, then let sit for 15 minutes t draw some of the juices from the rhubarb and cherries.
Evenly spread half of the crushed cookies in the prepared pan, then add the rhubarb mixture and all of its juices and gently spread it over the crumbs. Top with the remaining crushed cookies.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and, using the back of a large offset spatula or something similar, gently press down on the betty to ensure the rhubarb mixture is submerged in its juices. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Test the rhubarb with a paring knife to ensure that it is soft. Cool for 20 minutes before serving, topped with a dollop or Chantilly, whipped or ice cream.
Storage: This betty is best served the day it is made, but any leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature 2 to 3 days.
I finally found a savory rhubarb recipe I like. It’s a sweet and sour chutney adapted from Gathering Together Farm here in Philomath. It was the perfect accompaniment for the local Carleton Farms boneless pork chops I had in the freezer. Or use it in place of mango chutney.
Here’s the receipe developed by GTF’s acclaimed chef, JC Mersmann, a charcuterie enthusiast who worked at Chez Panisse. In place of the orange zest, I used fresh kumquats snagged at Trader Joe’s and substituted dried apricots for currants. I wonder how this chutney would do canned?
Makes about 4 cups
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 1/2 cups coarsely chopped rhubarb (from 1 3/4 lbs. rhubarb)
3/4 cup dried currants
4 green onions, chopped
Stir first six ingredients in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Add rhubarb, currants and green onions; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Discard cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate chutney until cold, at least 1 hour. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Bring to room temperature before serving.
Just can’t get enough of that astringent yet oh so sweet, ruby red rhubarb. It’s a tonic old souls swear by, and so I’m freezing a big bag of it and cooking up a storm with the scarlet stalks. You’ve got to make rhubarb spritzers, and with or without alcohol, they are just as intensely refreshing.
Then Dan reminded about the rhubarb bread I made once from a recipe I clipped from The Sun’s food section. But so many recipes got misplaced in the move. I’m still working on a recipe archiving system. Which ones are bookmarked on Delicious? Which ones are hard copies? So I settled on this rhubarb bread recipe I found online instead. It didn’t disappoint, though I wish I’d chopped my rhubarb a bit more finely. I substituted hazelnuts for the walnuts, adding nutmeg and cardamom and diced crystallized ginger on top. All those aromatic pie spices really complement rhubarb’s tangy flavor.
Though of course I already felt like I knew them. Amy and Matt kindly had us over to their renovated Eugene home. There, we indulged on grilled baby back ribs (marinated with homemade smokey peach and Hoisin sauces), cornbread, bay shrimp-topped deviled eggs, kale bruschetta, grilled chicken with cilantro jalapeno pesto and a baby potato salad. It was a feast. Amy and Matt were the consummate hosts, ensuring that our glasses never went empty. We drank ginger-cilantro lemon-drop cocktails, crisp and addicting rhubarb sodas and lots of local beer.I had such a good time, I forget to photograph the spread of food! I also made a potchka for dessert: a custardy “Coconut-Cardamom Rice Pudding with Rhubarb” (minus the kumquats). It was a yummy, South Asian-inflected, sweet/tart concoction but probably not worth the effort.
Looking for something different to do with your rhubarb this spring? Try this Italian crostata recipe. It comes from the Tra Vigne Cookbook, Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant. The toasted aniseed in the crisp really compliments the tart rhubarb flavor. Be sure to try to use extra ripe red bananas, which are more custardy than their yellow cousins. The polenta made for a dense, cookie-like crust. But it was still a bit crunchy, like undercooked rice. Any suggestions on how to soften the polenta? I added vanilla, ginger and cardamom to the recipes, all flavors that subtley enhance that rhubarb flavor. Remember that rhubarb acts as a thickener here to sop up the berry juices. If you omit the rhubarb, add a thickener, like tapioca pearls. Here is the recipe in full:
Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Banana Crostata
Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello
- Prep Time:
- 40 min
- Inactive Prep Time:
- hr min
- Cook Time:
- 1 hr 0 min
- 4 to 6 servings
- 1 1/2 cups pastry flour (1/2-pound)
- 3/4 cup polenta (1/4-pound)
- 1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
- Large pinch fine salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 full pint basket large, ripe strawberries, about 1 pound, hulled and halved or quartered
- 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
- 1/2 orange, zest freshly grated
- 1 lemon, zest freshly grated
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Vanilla gelato or sweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
To make the topping, measure the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, baking powder, and anise seeds into a food processor or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse for a few seconds to combine.
Add the butter and pulse or mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the egg into the well and toss the egg and flour together lightly and thoroughly with your fingers until evenly mixed. The mixture will not adhere in the manner of a dough but will clump together if pressed in your palm. Set aside until needed.
To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Turn mixture into a 2 quart shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the filling in an even layer. Do not press down. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch the drips and place in the oven.
Bake until the juices are bubbling up around the topping and the top is crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm with gelato, if desired.
Chef’s note: If you choose to bake the dessert in individual dishes, cut the baking time by about half.