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This here is my new favourite salad dressing. I feel oh-so virtuous when I skip (yes! skip! sometimes..) out to the garden with my wood salad bowl and pluck green leaves from the garden directly into it, then drizzle my greens with creamy rhubarb dressing, made with rhubarb I’ve also yanked out of my own (or my sister’s) soil. I should probably get myself a Little House on the Prairie-style bonnet. Tart rhubarb makes a perfect base for a vinaigrette, in place of (or along with) whatever acid you’d normally use, like lemon juice. Simmer chopped rhubarb for a few minutes, then puree it with honey, oil and rice vinegar (which isn’t as harsh as other vinegars) – the fibre in the rhubarb will add body to the dressing, but puree perfectly smooth. The result is a lovely pink vinaigrette reminiscent of pink poppyseed dressing – and if you dribble the canola oil into the blender as it’s running, it will thicken and emulsify, likeContinue reading

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I haven’t made a batch of Phantom Rhubarb Muffins (from the Best of Bridge-so named because they’re so delicious they tend to disappear) for years, and keep meaning to. I love tart bits of rhubarb in my muffins, and this recipe doesn’t produce too big a batch – I know you can freeze them, but who ever needs 2 dozen muffins at a time? 8 is perfect. I made these one recent morning when we were packing up the car for a road trip, in order to avoid the mostly disappointing $2 highway muffins with our very necessary coffees. Note: because I was distracted (and am, in general, imperfect) I wasn’t thinking and used more butter and sugar in the simple crumble topping than necessary, which resulted only in more caramelly bits on top – nothing wrong with that. And though the recipe calls for pecans, I had almonds – use any nut you have in your baking cupboard, really.

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This rhubarb… it just won’t stop. My own patch is becoming more impressive than I expected, but the stalks are still small and spindly (my theory is that it’s because I coddle and water it, and rhubarb thrives on neglect), but when I sigh with envy over friends’ enormous red plants with umbrella-sized leaves, I remember that the thin stalks are perfect for chopping and stirring into scones, muffins and cakes that resemble the surface of the moon. And lemon bars! Which everyone I know adores, and are made even better, if you can imagine it, with a scattering of pink rhubarb over the base before you add the filling. Double tartness! I make these with cranberries and coconut at Christmas, and it’s one of our favourite things.

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On Monday, five friends gathered in one kitchen with three bottles of prosecco to tackle the monstrous rhubarb currently taking over one friend’s garden. It’s beautiful – thick and solid red, and I pilfer it as often as possible; when we pluck stalks from the crown (which is the size of a VW Beetle) it never seems to get any smaller. But this time she went in determined, and there was enough rhubarb to fill three of her biggest stock pots, and then some. We each brought strawberries, and pounds of butter. We nibbled on cheese as we chopped and trimmed, and got flour everywhere doubling up my grandma’s standard formula for pastry for a double crust pie (you don’t want to multiply this kind of thing too many times – plus pastry for ten pies in one bowl becomes rather unwieldy) and mixed, chilled, rolled, filled, almost managing a sort of assembly line by the end, with finished pies getting deposited on every spareContinue reading

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I don’t know if you know, but ice cream is my jam. My desert island food. I used the heat of the last couple days as an excuse to make a batch – strawberry-rhubarb, since the best part about the pie is the ice cream pairing. You can skip the pastry and the baking and get the job done all in one go. Also – there’s something about pure pink ice cream that digs deep into the best part of your childhood. It reminds me of digging the thick stripes of strawberry and chocolate out of the tub of neapolitan. I sometimes roast strawberries and rhubarb for ice cream, but that would require turning on the oven, and it hit 31 degrees at dinnertime last night. You can use fresh, uncooked strawberries, lightly mashed, but I find those combined with heat and sugar become the best form of themselves, and are easier to distribute throughout the cream. Bonus: it’s easy to simmer some rhubarb alongside.

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A rainy weekend + a freezer too full to accommodate any more rhubarb can only mean one thing: pie. I picked up a copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book (from the Brooklyn pie shop of the same name) at the Calgary Reads book sale – I showed some restraint, I think, and only came home with ten books – from this one, I want to make every single pie. It was only a matter of time anyway, with all this rhubarb, so I thought I’d get the first pie out of the way before the strawberries showed up. (Or the raspberries – I love a raspberry-rhubarb pie.)

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Warning: it’s going to be all rhubarb, all the time around here for awhile while we eat our way through the first couple armloads. This week I’ve eaten them stewed, in Eton Mess, in scones and a crisp – I’m a firm believer in rhubarb for breakfast, and its ability to get along well with all fruits, from mangoes to blackberries, makes it the ideal candidate for an easy crisp, into which you can toss whatever fruit you happen to have or need to use up because it’s starting to go wrinkly. Also it uses up armloads of rhubarb.

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When it’s summer, or spring enough that the rhubarb has begun to poke through, there should be rhubarb scones on weekend mornings, but perhaps more importantly, on Monday mornings. When the sun is out at six and the birds start their noisy rave an hour earlier, my favourite thing to do (second to sleep, of course) is go downstairs, open the kitchen windows (the storms are off!) put on the coffee and turn on the oven, and bake some scones. It’s the perfect blank canvas, really – a carbohydrate pedestal on which to present whatever happens to be in season. Tart things are the best, I think – they provide a good contrast to the sweet dough. It’s especially nice when those tart things are free.

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