Waiting for the Oregon summer to arrive can be maddening. Once the first local strawberries hit the local farmers markets and grocery stores, the lush bounty of produce overwhelms farmers and enthusiastic eaters alike until late fall.
Waiting for the Oregon summer to arrive can be maddening.
Once the first local strawberries hit the local farmers markets and grocery stores, the lush bounty of produce overwhelms farmers and enthusiastic eaters alike until late fall.
Fortunately, the cool nights and fertile soil have been working on another treat to tide us over: juicy, tart, blushing red rhubarb.
Resembling its vegetable cousin celery, the hearty ruby-hued stalk is fibrous and tough when raw. Rhubarb sprouts in late winter to early spring, growing into low, bushy clusters of large, heart-shaped leaves.
Always cooked with a generous dose of sugar, this is a vegetable masquerading as a fruit. Pucker-your-mouth sour and sweet, the stalks melt into a tender texture when cooked, and the resulting compote can be used for a myriad of purposes. It stores well, and can even be frozen. Poured warm on top of ice cream, French toast, or yogurt, a dollop of pink jewel-toned rhubarb sauce will transform the ordinary.
Make sure to cook rhubarb thoroughly. Biting down on crunchy hunks of stalk will definitely turn off a person tasting the vegetable for the first time and likely a person who might be sitting on the fence.
Pair rhubarb with anything rich and creamy and you’re in for a heavenly combination. Think mascarpone and waffles, vanilla pudding or panna cotta. How about alternating layers of rhubarb and white chocolate mousse?
The ever-popular strawberry-rhubarb pie is its most famous recipe, and with good reason. It’s featured at country caf퀌�s and in city kitchens across the country this time of year. The luscious, delicate berry flavors are a perfect counterpoint to light, lively rhubarb. Apples, pears and other sweet, mild-flavored fruits are also a good match.
Finding a favorite pie or tart crust this time of year can come in handy too. Stock your freezer now with a few extra disks of dough and you can knock out a berry pie in the middle of summer in no time.
By then we’ll all be buried in berries, right?
Spring rhubarb tartMakes one 9-inch, double-crust tart
Whole-wheat shortbread crust
This recipe makes a bit of extra crust. Sprinkle scraps with a little cinnamon and sugar and bake for a tasty treat.
2 cups whole-wheat flour1 cup all-purpose flour1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt1/2 pound butter, unsalted, cut into chunks (the colder the better)1 cup sugar (cane sugar preferable)1 large egg1/2 teaspoon vanilla extractIce waterSugar, for sprinkling on the topCinnamon, for sprinkling on the top (optional)
2 1/2 pounds rhubarb1 cup sugar
To make the crust, combine flours, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or mixer, or put into a large bowl and stir to combine, using your hands. Add butter chunks and mix in until a mealy texture. Mix in egg and vanilla, combine, drizzling the cold water in slowly. Start with about 3 tablespoons, and add more until dough just comes together. Turn out onto table and form 2 rough disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
For compote, wash rhubarb and remove leafy tops and pale bottoms. Cut into 1/2-inch chunks, and put into a heavy saucepan with the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Turn down to medium-low, and allow to cook until slightly thickened and chunks have become tender, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Before assembling the tart, preheat oven to 350 degrees. To assemble tart, roll out dough and line a pie pan, letting excess dough fall over edges of pan. Pour filling into the middle, and spread out evenly. Fold excess dough over top of filling. Roll out the top layer, cut into a circle roughly the shape of the round top, then place on top of pie. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with cane or turbinado sugar and cinnamon, if desired. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a rich brown color.