Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rhubarb four ways

I have a confession: I have never bought, cooked, grown or eaten rhubarb (I'm not counting bad, store-bought strawberry rhubarb pie). But I'm trying something new. Inspired by all these posts about rhubarb (at Seasonal Ontario Food and Tea and Cookies), I spent the week cooking these four recipes:

Rhubarb Compote

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 lb rhubarb (about 10 to 12 thin, long stalks)
1 tbsp butter (or coconut oil)

Cut rhubarb into small cubes. Toss with sugar. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low. Add rhubarb. Let cook for 2 minutes without stirring, then cook for 10-12 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Possible experiments: today I stuck with plain old white sugar, but I'm going to try going all local with honey or maple syrup next time... not sure how the maple would taste with the rhubarb, but it can't be bad! I'm sure the rhubarb would overpower. I'm also going to try a vegan version using coconut oil instead of butter. And finally, I'm going to try using less sweetener. This one was delicious, but I would love it to taste even more tart.

Enjoyed on: vanilla ice cream, custard, yogurt, pancakes, potato rosti, toast and on spoon, straight from the jar.
Variation - Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Exactly the same as above, just add some halved strawberries after the rhubarb has cooked for 5 minutes. You might want to add less sugar - the strawberries get mighty sweet when cooked. This compote is a lot runnier than the straight rhubarb - great for waffles, pancakes or ice cream!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

*Note - This is a new crumble recipe for me - it's gluten free! I'm a big fan of crumbles with oats in the topping, but the almonds in this recipe make an awesome, crunchy crisp. This makes a rather tart crumble (according to my mom and boyfriend- I thought it was just right). Increase the sugar if you want a sweeter taste. Serve with delicious real, local, organic whipped cream!

1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 blanched almond flour (usually in the fridge in health food stores - like the big carrot)
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cold butter (coconut oil or vegan margarine for a vegan version)
dash of salt
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
4 cups rhubarb, diced
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice

Spread sliced almonds on a baking sheet (I used whole almonds and chopped them roughly). Toast in oven at 350 for 8 minutes. Throw almonds, almond flour, brown sugar and salt in food processor and grind into a fine meal. Transfer to a bowl, and cut in cold butter, making a chunky, cornmeal-like mixture. Set aside. Leave oven on at 350 for later.

Combine strawberries and rhubarb in a bowl. Toss with sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle lemon juice over fruit.

Grease a 9 by 9 in. baking dish. Spread fruit in bottom, then sprinkle crumble topping evenly over fruit. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until fruit is thoroughly cooked and topping is browned.

Rhubarb Applesauce

*Note- use 2 or 3 types of apples if you can. This makes any applesauce taste better. Also, if you're using organic apples, leave them unpeeled (if you don't mind a few bits of skin - and if you're using some sort of red apple, it will turn the sauce a pretty red colour).

5 or 6 apples, cored and chopped
5 or 6 stalks of rhubarb, diced
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Combine apples and rhubarb in a pot with a few splashed of water. Cook on medium/low heat, stirring and smushing occasionally, until everything is soft and mushy to your liking (anywhere from 20-40 minutes). Stir in maple syrup to taste.
Along with the rhubarb, here's my finds from the market this week: cabbage, cornbread, bok choy, a cucumber. apples and delicious kalamata olives. Mmmmm. 

In 4 months, this vine will be bursting with New England Pie pumpkins... I'm already thinking of the delicious things I'm going to bake.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cheap & easy dinner, plentiful & bountiful asparagus

Potato Rosti with grilled asparagus
*this makes delicious dinner for 2. For one person, just make a smaller rosti, cutting amounts in half.

3 large potatoes
1 onion, peeled
salt and pepper
3 or 4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grate potatoes (leave skin on) and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a skillet (one that can go in the oven - no plastic handles!). Make sure pan is coated well with oil to avoid rosti mishaps. Pile grated potato and onion mixture in skillet, pressing down and forming a huge, pan-sized potato pancake. Cook on medium heat for 7 or 8 minutes. Run spatula under edges to loosen, then place a large plate face down on the rosti. Flip the entire thing onto the plate, then slide the rosti back onto the pan (now cooking the uncooked side). Put the skillet in the oven for another 7 or 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, perhaps while the first side of the rosti cooks, break off the tough ends of the asparagus. Toss on a baking pan with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. When you put the rosti in the oven, throw in the asparagus. They'll be done the same time as the rosti! (8 minutes). Roll them around once for even cooking.

Meanwhile, while asparagus and rosti are in the oven, fry two eggs.
Serve each rosti piled with asparagus, topped with an egg (maybe with a side of homemade applesause for the rosti).

Cheap, cheap dinner. The whole thing costs between 2 and 4 dollars, depending on whether you're using organic ingredients. Use butter instead of olive oil and you have yourself a 100 mile dinner, possible much much closer, especially if you're lucky enough to have an asparagus bed in your backyard. No excuses for that woody, tasteless asparagus from Peru right now - everywhere has Ontario asparagus, from No Frills to Dufferin Grove to St. Lawrence Market.