Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rhubarb: Everybody's Talking About It

The first rhubarb sighting has brought out the blog posts from one blogger to another and another. Even gardening bloggers are writing about it. By the way check out the gardening blog because it has an intriguing streudal that brings garden to table in a delicious way.

I didn't grow up with rhubarb; Mom never cooked with it, but in high school I discovered rhubarb when I worked at a pie shop and rhubarb pie was on the menu. I was sure rhubarb was something new and unique and was a little disappointed that it wasn't new, but it certainly was unique.

Rhubarb is vegetable classified as a fruit. The stalks are the only edible portion and the leaves are toxic, containing oxalic acid. Rhubarb leaves are toxic for dogs so it's best to grow rhubarb away from curious pets like my kitchen assistant. The sliced stems, like gooseberries, demand a bit of sugar to be palatable.

Washington rhubarb season is just beginning so I could only find rhubarb at Stoney Plains Organic Farm at the market. Only one vendor means the price will be high. It's $4.00 a pound now but that may come down as more farmers bring it to market. It's an easy plant to grow here, and starts go for $12.00, from Stoney Plains.

I admire market shoppers who load up on rhubarb, confidently piling it into baskets and bags. I'm challenged by rhubarb and I often ask what they're making. Last Saturday one woman with two full bags said she was making strawberry-rhubarb cobbler. "It's a James Beard recipe," she'd said. She also mentioned orange juice and zest. I imagined the three flavors wrapped around each other and tucked under a flaky crust.

In May, I'm making a Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp for a cooking class. I'd wanted to test this recipe but the problem is Washington strawberries are still a month away. Perhaps another fruit from my freezer would work.

Pie cherries and rhubarb intrigued me, so that's what I picked.
Sour Cherry-Rhubarb Crisp
Pie cherries and rhubarb--what an unbelievable flavor combination. I wanted to keep lingering over it for as long as I possibly could. My frozen pie cherries came from Mair Farm-Taki. I suggest if you want to try something really unbelievable this summer, try a dessert made with pie cherries and rhubarb. And why not add some lavender like my friend Kathy might do for hint of elegance.
Serves 4
3 cups pitted pie cherries
1 1/2 to 2 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed culinary lavender buds
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1 cup unbleached flour or 1 1/2 cups Nash's Soft Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
2 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the cherries, rhubarb, lavender buds, orange juice and arrowroot powder. Gently blend in a 2-quart casserole until well-combined.

2. Combine flour, oats, sugar and baking soda, mixing well. Cut butter into this mixture with a fork or pastry blender. Add maple syrup and mix well. This mixture will still feel a bit dry. Sprinkle it over the cherries and rhubarb. Pat down.

3. Bake for 50 minutes or until topping bubbles up and top is browned.

See his tail wagging. It's warm and he's sure he hit pay dirt with this one and I am so amazed at how perfect pie cherries and rhubarb taste together that I'm in food lust.

I'd hoped to have a dog party photo with Finn's sister (just adopted last month). I've been working with her on "Wait," but Finn wasn't having any of it. I didn't get why Chloe wouldn't join Finn on the bench when Tom said, "Your assistant is giving her the business."

Dogs don't care much about sharing the feast like we do and they really don't care who sees them behaving badly. Finn has quickly claimed both bowls as his. Imagine if people did this.

This is Chloe. She gets "Wait," but unlike Finn the poser, Chloe can't look at food directly without losing it. The drool, I mean. She's over the edge, a ton of drool lurks under that chin. One shake of her head and this fabulous dessert would seriously go to the dogs.

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