Monday, May 23, 2011

Spring in to Rhubarb

Will this be me after trying rhubarb?

I eat most things, organ meats and mushrooms excluded.  And rhubarb isn't on the 'do not eat' list exactly, but it is certainly not something I seek out.  I've never bought the stuff, and have unpleasant memories of a childhood episode in which my mother, an otherwise prize winning pie baker, concocted a strawberry rhubarb pie from some stalks growing wild in a field.  This was the one bad pie on her otherwise impeccable record, which continues to this day.  The strawberry rhubarb pie was puckeringly bitter.  Whether the recipe was flawed, she was distracted when she measured the sugar, or the wild rhubarb was more bitter than the varietal called for in the recipe is unclear.    But the memory of that acrid, mushy 'dessert' remains with me and as a result, I have more or less avoided rhubarb for decades.
Rhubarb from Iovine's--ready for me to take the plunge!

But everyone deserves a second chance, even vegetables.  And the recent Inquirer feature on this harbinger of spring prompted me to reconsider my position on the stuff.  As a devotee of local produce whenever possible, I realized that rhubarb is one of the few items available these days that fit this bill.

Turns out, Claire is a big fan.  She found this rhubarb chutney at Reading Terminal Market which she served with roasted pork.  She also assembled a gorgeous cheese plate with a scoop of the chutney  on the side.

Food and Wine's May issue proffered rhubarb-cheese strudel as an elegant way to showcase this quintessentially spring ingredient.

And our friend Chef Jack McDavid suggest the following rhubarb-centric dessert:  Grill rhubarb til it's just al dente and cut it into bite sized pieces.  Set grilled rhubarb aside and make vanilla syrup--a basic simple syrup made with a cup of sugar, a cup of water, and a whole vanilla bean scraped into a saucepan.  Cook the syrup slowly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened into a syrup.  Remove the solid bits of vanilla, place the grilled rhubarb in the syrup, and leave it there to soak for a bit.  To serve, pour the rhubarb mixture over vanilla ice cream, flan, or custard.  It makes a beautiful presentation with a dramatic pink color, and is a unique but simple dessert.
So, I seem to be surrounded by ideas for using the spring stalk in a number of ways.  I'm going to give it a try.  Stay tuned for *feed*back.

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