Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fun With Rhubarb

We've had a strange item in our farm box the last 4 weeks or so: rhubarb stalks. Having grown up in a household that never, ever once consumed rhubarb in any form, I can honestly say that I hadn't a clue what to do with it, other than not eat the leafy parts (somehow, I had heard they were mildly toxic - this is true, actually). Flipping through my ever-trusty Joy of Cooking, I found an easy recipe for rhubarb compote, which is essentially chopped-up rhubarb heated up in a pot with a lot of sugar until it turns into a jam-like spread. This ended up being a tasty concoction on toast at breakfast and also a good change-of-pace condiment for a turkey sandwich.

The following week came more rhubarb, and this time I opted to attempt a more conventional prep: rhubarb pie. Having never before made pie dough from scratch, I am more than a little ashamed to admit that I wimped out and bought the Pillsbury pre-fab dough (I know, I'm sorry, a pox on me), so essentially all that I created was the pie filling. You can see the end result above - a bit ghastly looking, but very scrumptious (Mrs. Hackknife loved it, but threatened me with bodily harm if I did fake dough again, Hackknife progeny as always wouldn't touch it). The worst part was cleanup as I needed an SOS pad (and practically a blowtorch) to get all of the baked-on parts off the glass pie dish. Note to self: use Pam next time.

I had told myself that cobbler would be the next rhubarb dish, and, lo and behold, here comes more rhubarb in the farmbox. My Joy of Cooking lists a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler recipe - presumably, the strawberries add a little sweetness to the tart rhubarb, so they match well together. I have to say I enjoyed making the cobbler more than the pie - the dough was easy to make from scratch (no pre-fab needed here) and you have the option of just laying it in pieces on top of the fruit filling, so it's like a pie w/no bottom crust. I didn't do a great job of flattening the dough enough since some of the cobbler slices were a little crustier than others, but overall, the feedback on the final product was very positive.

One more round of rhubarb and this last time, I wanted to make something a little more decadent. lists a recipe for custard rhubarb crisp, which I found to be similar to that for the cobbler; however, it also includes eggs, cream, and butter, would expect that it might taste a bit more luxurious (and you'd be right). This prep got the ravest reviews of the 4 rhubarb dishes, but also falls into the category of "eat only once a year or so lest you take up residence in an early grave". Thankfully, we have now gone a couple of weeks with no rhubarb in the farmbox, thus giving me a brief respite from continuing to watch the needle on the bathroom scale inch slowly upward with each passing week of dessert-topia.

I'm including the recipe for rhubarb compote below. If you'd like either the pie or cobblers recipes, please drop me a note and I'll send them to you.

Combine in a medium saucepan:

4 c. 1/2-inch pieces rhubarb
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar

Let stand at room temp until the rhubarb exudes some juice, at least 15 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and the liquid thickened, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool without stirring. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for up to 2 days. The compote will thicken when chilled.

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