Everything's Coming up Rhubarb!

Right now, I'm looking at the world through a rose-colored lens. The "rose" just happens to be rhubarb.

Stalks of pink and lime green rhubarb are growing tall in the garden, joining sugar snap peas, early broccoli, frilled lettuce, bok choy, and herbs of all kinds. 

Although rhubarb-lovers usually think strawberry and rhubarb pie, there are a lot more ways you can make the most of your rhubarb harvest. (And convert those who think they don't like rhubarb.  They just haven't had it paired with the zing of fresh lemon.)

From featuring in a fresh syrup to a flavored lemonade, eat-it-all-up fruit crisp, and signature ice cream, rhubarb is a garden-to-table ingredient at its springtime best.

When you have extra, chop up stalks of rhubarb (discard the leaves, as they can be poisonous to pets and children), and freeze the pieces in 4-cup freezer bags.  That way, you can enjoy rhubarb all year long.

Rosy Rhubarb Syrup
4 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
The juice of 2 lemons
1. For the syrup, place the rhubarb and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the rhubarb until tender and pulpy, about 10 minutes.  Strain off the rhubarb pulp, reserving the juice. Measure the juice and add enough water to equal 2 cups. Return the liquid to the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil so the sugar dissolves, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and let cool.  

Strain again, then pour into clean glass jars or bottles. (Refrigerate, covered, for up to 1 month.) Makes about 2 cups.

Porch Swing Lemonade
Wouldn’t it be nice to sit on the porch swing and visit with your neighbors, sipping a homemade lemonade? You really can sit back and relax if you make the syrups a few weeks or days ahead. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice right before you want to serve the drink. Stir it all together in a pitcher or portable container, and serve over ice. Adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook.
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 7 large lemons)
1 1/2 cups Rosy Rhubarb Syrup 
1 1/2 cups water
Sugar, for sweetening
Fresh lemon slices, for garnish
 Sprigs of lemon balm or rosemary, for garnish
Stir the lemon juice, syrup, water, and sugar together in a large pitcher. Add lemon or lime slices and herb sprigs, if you wish.  Add more sugar to taste, if desired. Serve cold.

While I"m on the rhubarb kick, I'll add two tried-and-true rhubarb recipes without photos. Even if people think they don't like rhubarb, they seem to gobble up this crisp and this ice cream . . . .

Lemon-Zested Mulberry and Rhubarb Crisp

I have made this crisp countless times. It's delicious as a dessert, but it's also fabulous for breakfast with a little dollop of Greek yogurt. The mulberry is a large bush/small tree that has three differently shaped leaves. If you can't find mulberries growing wild (lining parking lots where scrub trees grow), you can use blackberries. In much of the Midwest, they ripen in mid to late June and are very perishable, which is why you don't see them at farmer's markets or grocery stores.  This recipe is a great reason to gather them yourself.  Adapted from Prairie Home CookingServes 6 to 8.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (save the rest for juice)
1/2 cup butter, somewhat soft

4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups mulberries, cleaned (or use blackberries)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant tapioca
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  
2. For the topping, combine the flour, sugar, and lemon zest in a small bowl.  Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture to form large crumbs; set aside.  
3. In a large bowl, mix the fruit together and add 1 cup of the sugar, the tapioca, and lemon juice.  Stir to blend.  Butter the inside of a large baking dish and then put in the fruit.  Sprinkle topping on the fruit and bake for 35 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling.

Lemony Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream

This pale pink ice cream tastes as lovely as it looks. Just don't tell anyone it has rhubarb in it, and they'll never know.  You make this in three stages: the baked lemon sugar cookie crumble, the baked rhubarb, and then the ice cream. Makes 1 generous quart.

For the Crumble:
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a smaller bowl, combine the  flour, lemon zest, and sugar.  Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour mixture to form large crumbs.  Sprinkle these large crumbs in a baking dish and bake at  350 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the crumbles begin to brown.  Set aside to cool, but keep the oven on.

For the Ice-Cream:
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups heavy  cream
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1.  Place the rhubarb in a large, shallow baking dish along with the sugar and the lemon juice. Place the dish on a lower shelf in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Transfer the rhubarb to the food processor and puree until smooth. 

2.  Before making the ice cream, use your hands to break up the cooled crumble into small, pea-sized pieces (if they're too big, the pieces are unwieldy to eat
in the ice cream; if they're too small, they disappear when the ice cream churns). Next stir the cream into the rhubarb puree, pour into an ice-cream maker and churn until the mixture has the consistency of softly whipped cream. Then, quickly stir in the crumble pieces. Finish freezing the ice cream according to manufacturer's directions.  If frozen solid, the ice cream will need to be transferred to the fringe for about 25 minutes before serving, to allow it to become soft enough to scoop.

No comments: