By Barbara Beltrami
Rhubarb. You either like it or you don’t. Or you never liked it when you were a kid, but now you do. Or maybe you’ve never even had it. But here it is growing and appearing in gardens or produce departments as another harbinger of spring into summer. It can be eaten raw or cooked, in a dessert, sauce, salsa or chutney; but it does require sugar as on its own it is very sour. And just remember: It’s the stalks you eat, not the leaves. They’re poisonous.
Most people think of rhubarb as strawberry’s other half. That’s probably because strawberries and rhubarb ripen pretty much simultaneously and do complement each other. There are lots of strawberry festivals going on and next week I will write about them. But for now, let’s just talk about rhubarb, for which there are no festivals that I know of. What a shame.
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
Two 9-inch or larger pie crusts, preferably homemade
5 cups washed, trimmed and sliced rhubarb
1¼ cups sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 450 F. Roll out one pie crust to a few inches larger than the bottom of the pie plate and drape the excess over the rim. In a large bowl, make the filling by mixing the rhubarb, sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Spread filling evenly over crust, dot with butter. Roll out the top crust the same way and place evenly over filling. Wet your fingers with ice water, then fold and press edges together on top of rim, and with a small pointed knife, make a few slits in the crust. Bake 15 minutes at 450 F, then another 20 to 25 minutes at 350 F. Pie is ready when crust is golden and some juice bubbles through slits. Serve with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream or crème fraiche.
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
For the topping:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup oats (not quick cooking)
¾ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 stick of unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped almonds
For the rhubarb mixture:
Butter for greasing baking dish
2½–3 pounds rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces (you should end up with about 2 pounds or 8 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously grease an 8-inch by 8-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. For the topping, in a medium bowl combine the flour, oats, sugar, salt, melted butter and almonds. Refrigerate one hour or until ready to use. For the rhubarb mixture, in a large bowl thoroughly combine the rhubarb, sugar, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over mixture and bake about 45 minutes or until top is golden and slightly crispy and filling is bubbly. Serve warm with vanilla or strawberry ice cream or whipped cream.
YIELD: Makes 2 to 4 servings
1 pound rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
1/3–1/2 cup sugar or to taste
DIRECTIONS: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, cook rhubarb and sugar together, stirring occasionally, until they reach a mushy but thick consistency, about 20 to 30 minutes. (Rhubarb will release a lot of water, but you can add about ¼ cup of water to start, if you wish.) That’s it! Serve on vanilla ice cream.