The height of the spring market season brings some of the freshest and most delicious produce to the market. Walking along the market stalls I see row after row of fresh green lettuces and peas. I can think of a thousand things to do with them. When I come to the rhubarb I am less ambitious. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head to do with rhubarb is to make a pie. The more I think about it, the more intrigued I become. I buy a bunch and set off home to do some research.
Rhubarb in Oregon is in season throughout the spring. The stalks have this incredible green-tinted watermelon color that intensifies when you cook it. The plant originally came from Asia and only began it’s American life in the mid 1800’s. The roots have a laxative quality that has been used medicinally for the last 5,000 years. The stalks are edible, but the leaves are poisonous if eaten in large quantities. Rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw, cooked, and pickled.
The first and most basic recipe for rhubarb is to make a sauce, similar to applesauce. This can be eaten cold on it’s own for a tart and refreshing dessert. You can also use the sauce as a topping for ice cream, or even as a condiment with meat, as in pork chops and rhubarb sauce.
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, sliced
1 C. sugar
1 C. water
Stir together the sliced rhubarb, sugar, and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until the rhubarb is completely broken down and the liquid has evaporated. It should be the consistency of chunky applesauce when it’s done. Set aside and chill until cold. This can be made ahead up to one week and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. It can also be frozen and thawed when you want a little ruby-hued love in your life.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more decadent, use the sauce to make these simple cheesecakes.
For the crust:
1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
2 T. sugar
1/2 C. melted butter
For the filling:
1 C. sugar
2 t. lemon zest
1/2 C. sour cream
2 t. vanilla
4 egg yolks
1 1/2-2 C. rhubarb sauce (recipe above)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the crust. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 2 T. sugar in a bowl. Line two muffin tins with 20 cupcake papers. Distribute the crumbs equally among the papers. Use your fingers to press the crumbs into the bottom of the cups. Bake the cups for about 7-9 minutes, or until the crust begins to brown. Meanwhile make the filling. Blend together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, sour cream, and egg yolks until very smooth. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cups. Place a tablespoon of rhubarb sauce on top of each cheesecake and use a toothpick to swirl the sauce into the cheesecake batter. This amount of filling filled twenty cups about 3/4 full. It’s ok if the crusts are still hot, it’s all going right back into the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake the cheesecakes for about 25-30 minutes, or until set. If you gently touch your finger to the top and it’s no longer wet, then they are done. When cool, remove from the pan and chill for at least an hour, until cold. The cheesecakes will sink a bit and create a nice little cradle for the rhubarb topping. Spoon a few tablespoons of rhubarb sauce onto each cooled cheesecake. Chill and serve
Warmer weather always brings out the bartender in me. I made a rhubarb simple syrup and used it to create a fun and unusual Mojito.
Rhubarb Simple Syrup:
1 C. sugar
1 C. water
1 stalk rhubarb, sliced
Combine the sugar, water, and rhubarb in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute and set aside to steep for twenty to thirty minutes. Strain through a sieve, pressing on the solids. Discard the solids or eat them (they are yummy).
For one Rhubarb Mojito
2 oz. white rum
1 oz. rhubarb simple syrup
4-5 fresh mint leaves
2 oz. club soda
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the rum and simple syrup. Place the mint leaves and a couple of ice cubes into a glass and muddle – or crush until the mint is bruised and broken down into small pieces. Combine the muddled mint with the ice, rum, and rhubarb syrup and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass and top with the club soda. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.
This cake is perfect for a springtime birthday or Mother’s Day celebration. I used a sweet little 6 inch cake pan for this. I really recommend picking one up. They are great for desserts for a small group and for ice cream cakes too! For this recipe you need to make the above recipe for rhubarb simple syrup. The cake batter recipe was adapted from Miette bakery. Serves 6
For the cake:
4 oz. flour, a scant 3/4 cup
1 t. baking powder
1 pinch salt
3 1/2 T. butter, room temperature
1/2 C. sugar
5 egg yolks, room temperature
1/3 C. buttermilk
1/2 t. vanilla
1 C. Rhubarb Simple Syrup (recipe above)
2 C. heavy whipping cream
1 pint sliced, fresh strawberries
Butter and flour a 6 inch cake pan. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time beating after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Alternate adding some of the flour mixture and some buttermilk. Continue alternating with the flour and buttermilk until it’s all incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and a cake tester comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes before you invert it onto a cooking rack. When the cake is completely cooled, carefully split it into three layers with a serrated knife.
To assemble the cake, combine the rhubarb simple syrup with the whipping cream and whisk on high until stiff peaks form, about three minutes. Stiff is the operative word here, you need the cream to be able to hold up a layer of cake without oozing out the sides. If the color isn’t pink enough for you, add a drop of food coloring. Place one layer of the cake on a cake plate and top it with sliced berries in a single layer. Place the rhubarb cream in a piping bag or Squeeze It Decorator and pipe in a spiral on top of the berries. You could spread the cream on top of the berries and skip the bag, but you might find that the berries shift under the spreading, or it might not be as even as you like. If you don’t care too much about the final look, by all means just spread that stuff on there! Place a layer of cake on top of the cream and repeat with berries and more cream. Place the last layer of cake on top and top with cream. Decorate with a few more berry slices. Place the whole cake in the fridge until ready to slice. This cake can be made up to four hours in advance fully assembled. You can make the cake and cream the day before and chill, then assemble before your party.
Read more from Carrie Cowan at swellkid.wordpress.com/