Have you ever cooked with rhubarb?
I didn't even know what it looked like until I met my husband. It grows around his house like crazy! One of the times I visited during a college vacation, she handed us this bag of stalk-things and my Then-Fiance-of-Awesome was very excited.
Me, not so much. It looked like juicy celery with some red lines in it. Granted, it tasted better than celery (which isn't hard in my mind), but it was SOUR! The flavor, to me, was a sour citrus with a not-quite-as-bad-but-almost celery-like consistency.
Dipping it in sugar definitely helped, but I was done with my drive-back-to-college snack about a third of the way down my first stalk.
Then, I tried strawberry rhubarb jam. And then Pie. And I was hooked. When you cook it, the consistency softens (like celery - which I do like cooked) and it adds a whole other dimension to anything fruity you mix with it. I've had good luck mixing it with peaches, and my friend from Broad Universe, commented that it's absolutely divine with raspberries! Down south, you've got a lot of rhubarb pies (not even mixed with fruit!)
Now, despite my constant comparison to celery, it's not in the celery family. It's in the buckwheat family according to www.rhubarbinfo.com. And there are a whooooole bunch of different varieties, and the website has some great facts and recipes - so do check it out for more info than I can give you (without just writing you a bunch of quotes or plagiarizing from them.)
I haven't tried it in any savory dishes yet; nothing comes to mind as really working in my head - but if you have, please share in the comments.
The most common application, in this house, is strawberry rhubarb jam and strawberry rhubarb pie. (Down the road in Charlton, we've also had really good strawberry rhubarb wine!) In fact, strawberry rhubarb is H-of-A's favorite pie, hands down.
In any case, last Friday night, H-of-A harvested a ginormous bag of rhubarb. (See the pix above, that's AFTER harvest!), so we had his mom over and canned up a bunch of jam, and, of course, made some pies.
Now, me being me, I just had him buy me some pre-made pie crust because I hate making pie crust. My favorite brand, honestly, is Pillsbury. I've tried others and just not been as satisfied with the texture or flavor. I do dress up the crust with a wash of butter and milk - both the bottom and top crust - and then just fill it and bake.
Here's the recipe we found online… which I cannot track down, so I apologize for not having a link. (I think it was one of the many from www.cooks.com)
2 cups sliced strawberries (we quarter or cut them into six chunks, depending on the size of the strawberry. This makes them about the same size as the rhubarb chunks.)
3 cups rhubarb (cut into 1/2 inch slices, with the stalks also halved if they are more than 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca (which I learned, this weekend, is really just grated cassava)
1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
Mix all your ingredients together (gently enough so you don't squish the strawberries) and let them sit for 15-20 minutes. That's just enough time for you to take out your pie crust and let it come to room temperature. For my milk & butter brush, I microwave-melt 3 tbsps butter and add a shot of milk. Unroll and lay the bottom crust of the pie. Brush it. Fill it with the now-macerated filling. Top it with the 2nd crust. Fold and seal the two crusts together. (I'm a fan of the fold under and squish method, personally.) Brush the top with more butter/milk mix, cut breathing holes (release your inner paring-knife artist if you're me… or not). Foil the edge of the pie. Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil from the edges. Bake another 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. (Add another 10 minutes - or 2 commercial breaks - if you have a 10" pie pan.)
For people who have issues with sugar: I have been told by people who's cooking skills I trust, you can swap out part or all of the sugar for Splenda ®. Since the H-of-A DESPISES the flavor of Splenda, this will not happen in this household. HOWEVER, if you've got some really sweet and juicy strawberries, you might be able to cut down the sugar content to a heaping 1/4 cup and add a pinch of salt.
Now, go enjoy the fruits of the season!!