Rhubarb: the little-known culinary gift of spring

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Over the years I have passed through many homes with huge, beautiful bushes of rhubarb languishing uncut and unused in this family’s kitchen. That’s a shame! I’ve been trying to tease a rhubarb plant to grow for me for 40 years. No dice. Don’t people realize what a culinary (and pretty) gift they’re ignoring?

Also, did you know that the large leaves of rhubarb – although inedible, will act as insurance against aphids when placed at the base of susceptible flowers and vegetables?

Another specialty of rhubarb is its ease of freezing. Gather the stalks, wipe them dry and cut them into 1 inch pieces – or a little more -, put them in a freezer bag and they are good for a surprisingly long time, to use in any of the recipes of today. Check out the following recipes for some culinary surprises. We start with the perfect dessert. Enjoy!

Rhubarb oat bars

1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) softened butter

3 cups rhubarb sauce (thickened with cornstarch if needed)*

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Set the oven to 375F. Butter or lightly oil a 3 x 9 inch pan. In a medium bowl, combine the first five ingredients (with the salt). Add the softened butter and stir with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a buttered mold. Spread rhubarb sauce evenly over breadcrumb layer. Top with remaining bread crumbs, pressing gently to firm; sprinkle with nuts.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown and rhubarb is bubbly. Cool to room temperature before cutting.

* Rhubarb sauce

3 cups diced rhubarb stalks

2 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

3/4 cup granulated cane sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2/3 cup water

2 tbsp. butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Mix well, add the rhubarb.

Heat over high heat until thickened, then reduce to medium-high and boil, stirring constantly, until thick and clear. Off the heat, stir in the butter.

If desired, refrigerate and serve as is in small dessert bowls. Delicious!

Rhubarb cake

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream or buttermilk

2 cups flour

1 1/2 cup finely chopped rhubarb

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

Garnish:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of butter

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Combine topping ingredients and set aside.

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Cream and brown sugar shortening. Add the egg and mix well. Mix soda with sour cream/buttermilk and add alternately with flour. Stir in chopped rhubarb, walnuts and vanilla. Place in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Pecan and rhubarb cakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (or walnuts)

3 tbsp. pure cane granulated sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup mashed rhubarb sauce (recipe above)

3/4 cup milk

2 eggs

2 tbsp. real butter, melted

Warmed whole rhubarb sauce, optional

In a medium bowl, combine flour, pecans, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat together the rhubarb sauce, milk, eggs and butter; stir into dry ingredients until moistened.

Using a small 1/4 cup scoop of batter for each cake, cook in a buttered nonstick or iron skillet over medium-high heat, turning once to brown on both sides. Serve with whole rhubarb sauce (without mashed potatoes) or maple syrup of your choice, or simply sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Classic rhubarb pie

4 cups rhubarb, chopped

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated cane sugar

1 C. grated lemon zest

1/3 cup flour

1/8 tsp salt

1 tbsp. real butter

9 inch double crust pie crust

Mix the rhubarb with the sugars, lemon zest, flour and salt; let stand 10 minutes. Set the oven to 425F. Line a pie plate with the bottom pastry crust.

When the fruits are ready, pour them evenly into the dough, sprinkle with butter. Cover with top crust.* Cut off top and bottom crusts and pinch with moistened fingertips, making sure they stick to the pie pan. Cut slits in the top crust for steaming and/or decorate with leftover crust designs if desired. Sprinkle the tart with a little coarse caster sugar if desired.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Let cool to room temperature before serving. I pass a bowl of creme fraiche (mixture of 3/4 whipped cream and 1/4 sour cream) to spoon over the slices.

  • You can choose to make a lattice crust; just make sure the ends are firmly pinched to the bottom crust).

Our final offering is a “marriage made in heaven.” The rhubarb provides a welcome tartness, while the strawberries provide a fragrant sweetness and they pair beautifully in this delicious pie.

Strawberry/Rhubarb Tart

Prepared 9-inch unbaked pie crusts for two-crust pie*

4 cups freshly cut rhubarb (small pieces)

3 cups sliced ​​strawberries (small cuts)

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup flour

2 tbsp plus 11/2 tsp quick-cooking tapioca

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons of butter

Frosting: 1 beaten egg; 1 tablespoon of sugar

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Prepare the pie filling: combine the rhubarb and strawberries in a large bowl. Combine 1 1/3 cups sugar, flour, tapioca, orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add to fruit. Mix to coat.

Pour the filling into the pie crust, sprinkle with butter. Moisten the edge of the dough with water. Cover with the top crust and pinch the edges together in a pretty pattern. Cut slits or decorative designs in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Brush the top of the crust with beaten egg white, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar for the glaze.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until filling in center is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cover edge with foil if needed to prevent over browning until pie is baked. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

You can also cut the top dough into strips for a nice lattice top if you like. Be sure to pinch the edges of the bottom dough well.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at bcdailybee@bonnercountydailybee.com or by phone at 208-265-4688 for questions between 8 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at 208-265-4688.

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