Love That Rhubarb!
I never had rhubarb when I was growing up and was not enthusiastic about trying it. The leaves are poison and it looked too much like celery for me to believe that it could be good for dessert.
I was wrong.
In truth, it is the perfect dessert ingredient for me. It is not naturally sweet, and its tart intensity reminds me of pie cherries, which come along later in the season.
I started growing rhubarb in my garden about 10 years ago. It is a perennial vegetable, sometimes red, sometimes green, sometimes both. Don’t worry about the color, it all tastes good. Each year the plant multiplies, and I’ve since planted a several more, because I can’t get enough of that wonderful stuff.
Rhubarb does really well in cool weather areas. The main thing is to plant it in well drained soil, and to keep it well fertilized and irrigated. When it produces its giant flower but, cut it off so that the energy can go to stalk production. And don’t cut off all the stalks—the plant needs to retain some of its leaves so that it will be healthy the following year.
Rhubarb is an incredibly versatile vegetable. So here are some recipes that have given me great joy.
Rhubarb Breakfast Cake
For me, this is the perfect cake—slightly sweet, tart, moist and it keeps well. And it is extremely simple. First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and cream together in your food processor one soft cube of butter with 1 ¼ cups of dark brown sugar, one egg and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. In another bowl, mix together 2 cups of flour with a teaspoon of baking soda and a dash of salt. Add the flour mixture and a cup of milk in batches into the food processor bowl. Put about 5 or 6 chopped rhubarb stalks into the bowl you just used for the flour and add the batter back into the bowl.
I lined a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment, but you could also grease the pan. Spread the very thick batter evenly in the pan and then sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top (1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon).
Bake for about 45 minutes.
Easy peasy! And even easier is this rhubarb sauce that you can use over savory or sweet meals.
It is almost embarrassing to call this a recipe. Just simmer a pound of chopped rhubarb with 2 tablespoons of orange juice and 1/3 cup of sugar for 4-5 minutes.
And if you want something more complicated, try this:
My Hero, Ottolenghi’s Beet and Rhubarb Salad
Roast about 2 pounds of beets in a 400-degree oven, wrapped in individual foil packets until soft—anywhere between 40 and 70 minutes. Cool them, peel them and dice them. While that’s going on toss about a half pound of sliced rhubarb with a couple tablespoons of sugar and stick that in the oven for around 10 minutes, until just tender.
Set everything aside to cool.
Make a dressing of 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar with a shy tablespoon on pomegranate molasses, 2 tablespoons each of maple syrup and olive oil and a dash of allspice.
When you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss everything together with a thinly sliced red onion, a handful of chopped Italian parsley and a half cup of crumbled gorgonzola.
I bet a half cup of roasted walnuts would be pretty good in this as well. Or you could garnish it will shiny little red pomegranate seeds.
Salt and pepper to taste.