OK, so technically spring doesn’t start until Sunday, but for the sake of that “spring forward” business we dealt with last week, let’s just assume that we’re already in the next season. Along with longer days and warmer weather (hopefully coming soon), spring brings with it a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, from strawberries to bright peas and onions. As you peruse your local farmers market or browse the aisles of your grocery store, look for stalks of rhubarb; it’s a seasonal spring pick that, while a bit bitter on its own, can be easily sweetened up in some classic desserts and pairs well with naturally sweet fruits, like those fresh strawberries. Read on below to check out some of the best ways to put rhubarb to work.
I can still taste the tang of fresh rhubarb as my mom picked long stalks of the stuff from our garden as a kid. (I also remember yelling to my friends who always seemed to be grabbing it for a snack, “No! That’s not celery!”) But what a transformation: How soft rhubarb became in the oven, set in a custard pie filling along with sweet strawberries. Strawberry-rhubarb is the killer combination of spring. So as those first stalks are spotted in markets everywhere, these recipes are on our radar:
The Classic Approach:
1. Rhubarb Custard Pie: This is it! This is exactly the sweet and creamy pie I remember, the one I’ll make for our kids this spring.
Perhaps most often enjoyed alongside strawberries in a flaky pie crust, rhubarb is a seasonal produce commonly available from springtime through early summer. Although it may be thought of as a fruit, rhubarb is in fact a vegetable, boasting long celery-like stalks and large leaves, plus a slightly sour, tart taste. Since it’s naturally stringy and potentially fibrous, most recipes recommend cooking it slowly until it becomes tender and pairing it with something sweet, like sugar or fruit, to offset any bitterness. If you’ve never before cooked with rhubarb, pick up a ruby-colored bunch the next time you’re at the market, and put this fresh favorite to work in classic and creative dishes alike. Check out Food Network’s top-five rhubarb recipes below from some of your favorite chefs, like Ina, Guy and Iron Chef Marc Forgione, for a mix of traditional and deliciously inventive ideas for letting this in-season pick shine.
5. Lemon Bundt Cake With Berry Rhubarb Glaze — A make-ahead dessert that’s ideal for weekend entertaining, this crowd-pleasing cake is laced with fresh lemon juice plus tangy sour cream for moisture, and it is finished with a crimson topping of red berry jam and chopped rhubarb.
4. Rhubarb Compote — The secret to making this springtime recipe quickly and easily is letting the microwave do the work for you; after just a few minutes, the rhubarb will have broken down and become soft, ready for a topping of ice cream and crispy cinnamon-scented cereal.
We’re teaming up with food and garden bloggers to host Spring Fling 2011, a season-long garden party. In coming weeks, we’ll feature favorite garden-to-table recipes and tips to help you enjoy the bounty, whether you’re harvesting your own goodies or buying them fresh from the market. Recently, we dove into the world of asparagus — today, we’re exploring rhubarb.
Rhubarb is a large reddish, celery-like stalk with large green leaves. Even though rhubarb is commonly paired with strawberries to create tarts, cobblers and pies, this lengthy root is a vegetable. It tends to be tart, needing the addition of ample sweeteners like sugar and additional fruits.