The No Garden Summer Garden Pasta

Droopy Doodle is wondering what the heck happened.

Droopy Doodle is wondering what happened to her garden.

I have yet another confession to make, no, nothing from this post was pulled out of the trash, it’s even worse,  I am filling in my garden with, *gasp*, grass.  Sorry,  I know it goes against all the current trends and Sunset magazine will probably revoke my subscription if they find out  but I have too much yard to take care of by myself  and I am not married to a man who likes yardwork.  I enjoyed the vegetable gardening thing for awhile,  I grew radishes and green onions and kale with pretty good success and I grew great crops of cherry tomatoes.  But other than that, I spent a lot of time weeding, watering, picking worms out of cabbages and trying to outsmart the chickens.  Their entire life’s mission is to get into the garden so they can pull out every seedling and eat every flower.  So this weekend, all the herbs were moved or repotted,  four yards of soil was spread and grass seed  and peat moss were sprinkled.  Ironically, until this weekend I have not missed anything about not planting a garden until I decided to make the Barefoot Contessa’s Summer Garden Pasta for  family dinner on Sunday.

$5 a pint!

$5 a pint–which is probably a bargain.

I first made this recipe a few summers ago when I had buckets of cherry tomatoes all ripening at the same time as it takes a whopping four pints.  Yesterday  at the local farm stand when faced with forking over $5 a pint for organic tomatoes, I  decided three pints would do just fine.  If you are an order Muppet like me, you can start this dish in the morning by preparing  the tomato marinade and then head out for a bike ride or some yard work and still throw together an awesome dinner. The tomatoes are marinated  with the olive oil, basil, garlic and red pepper flakes for about 4 hours which makes your entire house smell delicious and makes those you live with think you are a culinary genius.  You finish it off by cooking a pound of angel hair pasta  and then mix it  together with the marinade and copious amounts of freshly grated parmesan.  Couldn’t be easier!  Serve it with a nice loaf of bread and maybe another wedge salad and, of course, something fabulous for dessert.  Oh, and don’t forget a chilled bottle of white!

Tomatoes, garlic, basil and red pepper

Tomatoes, garlic, basil and red pepper

Barefoot Contessa’s  Summer Garden Pasta by Ina Garten

From Barefoot Contessa At Home

serves 6 (generously)

4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

good olive oil

2 tablespoon minced garlic (not the jar kind, mince it yourself)

18 large basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound angel hair pasta

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving (again, grate your own)

Combine the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, and the pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Just before you’re ready to serve, bring a large pot of water with a splash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil and add the pasta. Cook al dente according to the directions on the package (should be 2-3 minutes). Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with the cherry tomatoes. Add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss well.  Serve in big bowls with extra cheese on each serving.

The smell from this is fantastic

The smell from this is fantastic!

So, when you visit, we’ll sit on my backporch and admire my lovely green grass and I’ll make you this yummy dish! Oh, and there’s still plenty of flower beds to weed–don’t worry, I have extra gloves!

Cheers!

Iceberg dead ahead!

There’s an old Kenny Rogers song that has lyrics that go something like “know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away and know when to run”–keep that in mind.

First let me say, it’s hot here today and I am only a fan of hot in Hawaii or Palm Desert, not when I have lots to do around the house/yard. I spent the day washing the windows and screens inside and out as well as doing multiple loads of laundry, some vacuuming and bathing Buster–so I’ve had a full day and I am a little tired.

Jack decided to try an Eric Ripert steak recipe from this month’s Bon Appetit for dinner, which is fantastic because A). He’s doing it and B). I could have a crush on Eric Ripert–he’s adorable, especially in print and from the waist up. I saw him walk once on a cooking show and that was less than impressive but anyway…

What to have with the ER steak? Too hot for potatoes or rice and no time to make the israeli couscous Eric served with his steak, but we have asparagus which is perfect and then I thought a cool, crisp iceberg wedge would be delicious. Problem is, it’s a little like Old Mother Hubbard’s here. Please do not judge me when you read the rest.

I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe, which is a great recipe. My buttermilk had a pull date of 5/26 but it looked and smelled fine and it’s buttermilk–it’s already sour. I had a partial head of iceberg which I almost fed to the chicken this morning but after closer inspection thought it might come in handy. I actually had a stalk of celery freshly purchased yesterday and the radishes, well, I might have dug a few out of the trash (I had just cleaned the veg bin). I did have bacon in the freezer and chives from the garden. Ok, just know I would never do this if you were coming to dinner, but it’s just me and Jack, and he will never read this.

It was all going well (?) until I opened the container of blue cheese–terrible smell, terrible color, could not do it– mind you, a few minutes earlier I pulled radishes out of the trash! So now, the dilemma, get in the hot car and drive to Safeway (Costco is closed) and pay way too much for mediocre blue cheese or bag it and have an iceberg wedge with buttermilk dressing? You guessed it, buttermilk dressing…know when to walk away, know when to run. It’s too hot to go to the store–the salad will still be yummy, especially with the Eric Ripert steak!

Smitten Kitchen Iceberg Wedge Salad

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Bon Appetit!?

Weeds and Margaritas!

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Magartia at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA

I haven’t been cooking much lately…I’ve been working out in the yard.  And nothing tastes better after a day of yard work than a perfect Margarita.  A cold beer is a close second but I’m not making beer yet, so I’ll stick with the Margarita.  Now, I’m not talking you mowed your lawn or dead headed your pots kind of yard work, rather your hind-end up in the air for hours, hands hurt, and you see weeds when you close your eyes kind of yard work–that deserves a reward and that reward is the perfect Margarita.

My quest began after Megan and I had a delicious Margarita at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.  We were on our way from Palm Desert to Los Angeles and had heard they had the “best” margaritas.  We decided to stretch our legs and wet our whistles and we were not disappointed.  Their Margarita was excellent as were their guacamole and quesadillas.

I’ve been trying to replicate the recipe at home ever since, as I have not found any at restaurants that I feel are worthy of the caloric intake. The Costco mix is fine in a pinch when you are in Maui and don’t have room to pack your Vitamix in your luggage but I would never drink it at home.   I tried a few internet recipes and was disappointed or they had really expensive ingredients like Cointreau in them.  I came across the Perfect Margarita recipe in one of my Barefoot Contessa books and gave it a try…PERFECT.  So good and so easy.

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Ingredients for the Perfect Margarita

Perfect Margaritas

Barefoot Contessa

Serves 6

1 cup Tequila (the Costco brand works fine for these)

1 cup Triple Sec

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 cups ice

Put it all in the blender and mix until blended (any good quality blender will do if you do not have a Vitamix)

I “salt” the rims of the glass with:

2T sugar

2T kosher salt

Zest of one lime

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Cheers!

Absolutely fantastic and it will almost make you forget how much your backside aches.  Give it a try–but only if you’ve worked hard enough!

The Modern Martini (cilantro-lime gin cocktail)

In the name of science and the public good, I’ve infused another bottle of spirits. I know some might be nervous about potentially wasting a perfectly good bottle of booze by stuffing it full of a bunch of nonsense. And as of the date this is published, there are no comments nor reviews on the recipe at bonappetit.com. Someone had to step up to see if it was any good.

the modern martini (gin + cilantro + lime)

cilantro + lime gin

making the modern martini

This is very good. Yes, I am big fan of cilantro, but I am not a big fan of gin. I’ve had a number of several gin and tonics at Stephanie and Jack’s (first with Bombay Sapphire, later with Gordon’s, which I preferred), always with high expectations, but I’ve always been slightly put off by the flavor. When I first sampled this concoction after one day of infusing, I was disappointed because that distinct gin flavor was still there. It also tasted strongly of cilantro. However, when I tried it again the next day, something magical had happened. It tasted herbaceous and smooth. The flavors had melded. And while it tasted a bit green, if I hadn’t known that it was infused with cilantro, I don’t think I could have put my finger on it.

This really couldn’t be easier to make. If a fresh-tasting, simple (and strong) cocktail is what you’re after, you should definitely make this. I also appreciate that all of the effort happens upfront with this cocktail. When you are ready to drink it, you just need to shake it up with some ice and garnish it with a twist.

The Modern Martini

from bon appétit, June 2013

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 750-ml bottle London dry gin
  • 3 cups fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 lime twists or rounds (to garnish the finished cocktail)

To make the gin, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons hot water in a large jar, cover, and shake until sugar is dissolved. Add gin, cilantro, and lime juice (save gin bottle for finished product). Cover and chill 2 days. Strain into a medium bowl; discard cilantro. Pour cilantro-lime gin back into reserved bottle.

For each cocktail, pour 3 ounces cilantro-lime gin into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Cover; shake until cocktail shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with lime twists.

Cilantro-Lime Gin can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled.

Cheers!

Megan

P.S. We enjoyed these cocktails with the delightful company of Martha, who was in town at the time. Her visit was the perfect opportunity to finally make a rhubarb recipe I’ve been itching to make for a while now: rustic corn tarts with rhubarb compote! It is now listed under the appropriate category with notes in Rhubarb Roundup Part 1, but I’ll just stick the pics here:

rustic rhubarb tarts

 rustic rhubarb tart with ice cream

Coconut Maple Granola

Although I’ve always loved granola (who doesn’t?), I never got into the habit of eating it consistently for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not that nutritious. While it contains some wholesome ingredients, granola contains plenty of fat and sugar (especially in the grocery store brands made by the big food companies). Second of all, the brands that are the more nutritious, least processed options are crazy expensive. I will not pay upwards of $7 for 8 ounces of granola.

Granola and Yogurt

Granola Ingredients

I had heard that making your own granola was ridiculously easy, but held off for several years not wanting to go down that tasty, addictive road. But alas, the granola recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook finally looked too good to resist. This is now a regular in my life. No, it is not a health food. But it could be a lot worse! And luckily, a little goes a long way…although a lot goes a long way, too.

Coconut Maple Granola

slightly adapted from the Big Cluster Maple Granola in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

The main thing I’ve changed from the original recipe is that I’ve swapped coconut oil for olive oil. I melt the oil in the microwave before adding it. I’ve made it with olive oil, and it’s fine, but the flavor is sweeter and the granola more fragrant with the coconut oil. I also love the flavor of maple syrup, so to emphasize that, I use 2/3 of a cup of the darker grade B syrup. Recently I also added some cardamom along with the cinnamon, and while I couldn’t pick out the flavor per se, I did think that batch was extra delicious.

Although dried cherries are kind of expensive, they are really good in this. I used raisins one time when I was out of cherries, but they were too one-dimensional and sweet to add much to the granola. If you don’t want to spend the money on unsweetened dried cherries, just omit them and add berries to your yogurt and granola. Also, the original recipe calls for toasted wheat germ. My bag doesn’t say that it is toasted, and it definitely gets toasted in the oven, so I think whatever you have will be fine!

The other thing I’d add is that to get the big cluster effect don’t spread out the granola too much on your baking sheet. It needs to be touching in a thin layer. Sometimes it ends up in clusters, sometimes not. In the end, I don’t really care if the granola is in big clusters or not — sprinkled over yogurt, I don’t notice a difference.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup wheat germ

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 cup to 2/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

scant 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (optional)

1 large egg white

1 1/2 cups dried cherries or another dried fruit, diced if large pieces (optional)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients but the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. Spread it in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet (don’t use foil — it will stick!). Bake for 45 – 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible. Rotate the pan if granola is baking unevenly. When it is evenly browned and feels dry t the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

yield: about 7 cups

Cinco de Mayo Family Dinner

What do you serve for  Cinco de Mayo when several of your guests are somewhat picky eaters or don’t like to eat with their hands? My family can be quite persnickety when it comes to food and eating.   What could I make that would be fitting for the day, delicious, semi-healthy and  be eaten with a fork?  Mexican Paella for Six from the Rick Bayless Fiesta at Rick’s cookbook!   Chicken, mussels, shrimp, chorizo sausage,  delicious tomato sauce, poblano pepper and tender rice.  I’ve always wanted to do a full blown Paella and someday I will  (mostly I think I just want the pan–sort of like when I was 5 and signed up for ballet–it was all about the shoes).

Before dinner I served homemade  guacamole and chips and  Margaritas.  With dinner I served a romaine salad, some crusty bread, and of course, red wine. Dessert was the previously blogged Rhubarb Ice Cream with Lemon Angel Food Cake.

Prepped ingredients

Prepped ingredients

The Paella was  easy to make and I was able to do a few steps ahead like browning the chicken and prepping the tomatoes and onions.  I used  actual paella rice–the recipe calls for medium grain and the paella rice wasn’t any more expensive and came in a fun cloth bag. Since Sunday was such a warm day, I  did the majority of the cooking outside  on the burner of the gas grill.  Jack’s expertly  seasoned cast iron skillet was the perfect pan to use for this dish as cast iron fries and sautes beautifully and the rice was tender with a bit of a crust on the bottom. The recipe calls for a 12 inch,  which I thought I was using, but  it was actually a 10 inch.  It worked fine until it came time to put the chicken, mussels and shrimp in the pan with the rice for the  finish in the oven.  Everything was crammed in the pan and it took 30 minutes longer at 50 degrees higher heat.

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I can’t find the recipe on-line, but here’s his regular Paella recipe– basically the same just scaled way down.  I used 6 chicken thighs, 1/2 pound of chorizo, 1/2 pound of shrimp, etc.  Make sure you use a large enough pan, or better yet, buy yourself a pretty paella pan, they’re not expensive, just hard to store.

Paella for 6

Paella for 6

If you need a a salad recipe that is super easy and will knock your guests socks off and make them wonder why they ever order salad at a restaurant, it’s this one from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Romaine Hearts with Parmesan and Lemon Vinaigrette

2 heads romaine lettuce

1 garlic clove

Salt and freshly milled pepper

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (use the Maille if you can!)

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff makes a difference here, too)

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or more to taste

3/4 cup small toasted croutons (if you can’t make your own, the Metropolitan Market’s garlic croutons are yummy)

Slice the bottoms off the lettuce and remove most of the leaves until you get to the hearts.  Wash if needed and put the hearts ins spacious, wide bowl.

Pound the garlic with 1/2 teaspoon sale in a mortar until smooth.  Whisk in the lemon zest and juice, the mustard, then the oil.  Pour the dressing over the leaves and roll them over each other until coated. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the leaves, add the croutons, and toss again until the leaves are coated. Divide the sale among four large plates, add the remaining cheese, and finish with pepper (perhaps if you use a ridiculously large pepper grinder, your guests will think they are at a restaurant?)

Cook someone you love something yummy today and,  cheers!

Rhubarb Roundup (part 3)

IMG_1693This past weekend I tried two things rhubarb.

First on Saturday, which was a gloriously warm day, I had a Campari and soda.  Did you know Campari has rhubarb in it ?  Campari is considered a bitter and is an acquired taste but on a warm summer (or spring) day nothing beats sitting on the back porch with a little Campari over ice and a good portion of soda water while  picturing yourself  sitting at some little outdoor restaurant in Italy wiling away the afternoon. You can make other drinks with Campari like the Negroni, which usually elicits strong opinions–love or HATE!

My second encounter with rhubarb was rhubarb ice cream for Sunday’s family dinner.  The recipe was super easy and with my Cusinart ice cream maker I had creamy rhubarb ice cream in no time.  But you can’t just serve rhubarb ice cream by itself because some in my family dislike it as much as they dislike purple onions and meatloaf.

I decided to make a Barefoot Contessa Lemon pound cake but instead of using full fat yogurt, which the recipe called for, I thought I would try using the non-fat Greek yogurt I always have in my fridge.  I wasn’t as concerned about the fat content as the ice cream had plenty of whipping cream, as I was not having to go to the store.  The recipe called for vegetable oil, which I rarely use, and when I measured it out I thought it smelled funny but I ignored my gut and carried on.  Well, my oil was rancid and the pound cake tasted terrible (though Jack ate several slices and Buster and the chickens liked it). Always follow your gut; if you think it smells or looks bad, save yourself the heartache (maybe a little dramatic) and don’t use it.  I think the non-fat yogurt also made it a bit tough.

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Earlier in the week Megan and I had a  conversation about whether angel food cake would be good served with rhubarb compote (which it would)  and I decided it would also be delicious with rhubarb ice cream.  I found the Lemon Angel Food Cake recipe in one of my Barefoot Contessa books and gave it a try. The cake turned out perfect! Light and airy and just a little lemony, which was the perfect accompaniment to the rhubarb ice cream–not to mention the Rick Bayless Paella for 6–but that’s another post.

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Rhubarb Ice Cream    

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Every  Which Way With Rhubarb by Amanda Brannon

1 pound rhubarb, finely chopped

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the rhubarb in a shallow baking dish along with the sugar and the lemon juice. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Let it cool slightly. Pour the rhubarb into a food processor and process until you have a smooth puree. Pour into a container, cover and transfer to the refrigerator and chill. Stir the vanilla and cream into the rhubarb puree, pour into an ice cream maker and churn until the mixture has the consistency of soft whipped cream.  Freeze for a minimum of two hours or until the ice cream is firm enough to serve.

Rhubarb ice cream and Lemon Angel Food cake!

Rhubarb ice cream and Lemon Angel Food cake!

Beet Vodka

People have strong opinions when it comes to beets. Some people love them. Some people only love them when accompanied by chèvre. Some people can’t stand them at all. I’m in the first camp. I love them roasted and tossed in a vinaigrette, smothered in a cream sauce, pickled, stewed in borscht — even shredded and from a can! But most of all, I love them infused in a bottle of vodka.

sliced beets

I had a delicious beet vodka cocktail at Marrow in Tacoma a while back. It was beety in the best way — ruby red, earthy, and sweet. So I was thrilled when I saw the recipe in Bon Appétit’s March issue for beet-infused vodka and the beetnik martini.

My trip to California to catch up with Mitch and Stephanie proved the perfect opportunity to buy some booze at a great price. Because my suitcase was pretty packed by the time we made it to Costco, I opted for the smallest bottle I could find, which happened to be Crater Lake vodka. Does this recipe really need artisanal quality vodka? Probably not. But I wasn’t complaining.

I was a little nervous about dedicating this much vodka for this recipe. What if it ended up just tasting like dirt? The recipe said to let it marinate for 5 to 7 days in the fridge. How would I know when it tasted like it should?

Well…such a procedure necessitates a taste-test! I tried a spoonful from my jug-o-booze at day 5. It had a lovely beet fragrance (I’m not the only one who thinks this is possible, right?), but kind of a thin taste. So I went all the way to day 7. It comforted me all week just knowing that I had a huge jar of vodka in the fridge filling up with beety goodness. By day 7, it tasted delicious!

Beetnik Martini

beetnik martinis

The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon of the ginger simple syrup per 1/4 cup of vodka, but I found there was a better bite when I used a scant tablespoon, or 1 1/2 tablespoons for two cocktails. I like my booze to taste boozy, you know? This is 1/4 cup of vodka we’re talking about. With more syrup, the boozy bite was lost. Also, although I read the recipe a dozen times, typing it up right now is the first time I noticed that it includes lime juice. I never once added it. I imagine it would be stellar. If you include it, you’ll probably want the full amount of ginger syrup. I guess it’s time for me to make round 2!

By the way, the prep picture up top is Jack’s, and the lovely coupe glass photo is his as well. And yes, two generations of Knottinghams made and approve of this recipe. Also, notes for this recipe say it keeps for a month. But as they say on Arrested Development, “It’s vodka. It goes bad once it’s opened.”

Beetnik Martini 

adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2013

Ingredients

Vodka and syrup

  • 6 medium red beets (about 2 1/2 pounds), scrubbed, trimmed
  • 1 750-ml bottle vodka
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger

Assembly

  • 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 12 lemon slices

Preparation

Vodka and syrup

Cook beets in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender, 1-1 1/4 hours. Drain; let cool slightly. Peel and slice. Combine warm beets and vodka in a large 1 1/2-quart jar (save vodka bottle to store finished product). Cover; chill for at least 5 days and up to 1 week. Strain into a medium bowl; discard beets. Pour beet vodka back into reserved bottle. Cover and chill.

Bring sugar, ginger, and 3/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Strain ginger syrup into a medium jar; discard ginger. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD: Beet vodka and ginger syrup can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled separately.

Assembly

For each cocktail, combine 1/4 cup beet vodka, scant 1 tablespoon ginger syrup, and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice (the original recipe calls for an equal amount of lime juice — I somehow missed this each time I made it! Include if you like. It’s still good without it. If you use it, you’ll want a full tablespoon of syrup). Shake vigorously until cocktail shaker is very cold. Strain drink into a coupe or Martini glass or whatever you have. Float a lemon slice on top (and add a giant ice cube if it makes you happy).

Rhubarb Roundup (part 2)

rhubarb stalks

rhubarb stalks — dino-sized snack

This year the  admission yield season and rhubarb season coincided and I almost missed rhubarb season. There was a time when I would not have been sad about that but I have changed how I feel about rhubarb over the past few years. Years ago, when Jack brought home three of his grandfather’s rhubarb plants, I was not excited or encouraging. As a child, I had an experience with a stalk of rhubarb and a cup of sugar that left an unpleasant memory. The rhubarb pies or rhubarb/strawberry pies I tried over the years seemed slimy or slimy and sour. I was always more than happy to give our rhubarb to anyone who got excited when I said we had rhubarb. A few years ago, I tried the Rhubarb Crisp a la mode with Strawberry Sauce recipe from our local newspaper which was adapted from Sylvia Thompson’s “The Kitchen Garden Cookbook”  and it changed my life.  Next was Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Upside Down Cake–delicious!  My fear of the slimy and sour are gone and now it’s great fun to see what I can make with all my (notice it’s now my) free rhubarb!

When I was in Juneau two summers ago visiting Mitch and Rochele I picked up a cookbook titled “Every Which Way With Rhubarb” by Amanda Brannon.  Until this week the only recipe I had made from the book was a chutney and I was feeling some guilt about yet another cookbook that I haven’t really used, so I pulled it out of the cupboard and took it for a spin.  I do have a rhubarb recipe rule which is it has to use a LOT of rhubarb otherwise it’s not worth putting on the garden clogs and trekking to the side yard with a butcher knife to harvest.  This week I tried two recipes, Rhubarb Crumble Bars which used four cups and Rhubarb Cake II  which used two cups–both were delicious but I really like the Rhubarb Cake II.   It was moist and slightly sweet; a perfect snack cake!

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Every Which Way With Rhubarb by Amanda Brannon

2 cups rhubarb, diced

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda (I always use aluminum free)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan.  Combine the rhubarb and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cup sugar. Add the eggs and beat until well blended.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the milk mixture alternately with the flour mixture to the egg mixture, beating well between additions.  Stir-in the rhubarb mixture.  Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Cool slightly and serve warm or room temperature, plain or with ice cream.

Now the Rhubarb Crumble Bars were perfectly nice but vague directions involving cornstarch, water and cooking until “thick” meant my bars were more a crisp and not bar-like.  Would have been delicious with ice cream or whipped cream but you certainly could not eat with your hands. I thought they would be more like Smitten Kitchen’s Kim Boyce’s via Orangette Rye Crumble Bars which are the most amazing thing ever.

Both were taken to work,  as two people do not need to eat that much cake or crumble, despite what Jack says. -Stephanie

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Rhubarb Roundup (part 1)

cherry blossoms

Spring has finally arrived here in the Boston area! It was a cold and snowy winter, but the sunshine, warmth, blossoms, and leaves have finally arrived. So has the rhubarb.

Here in Cambridge, I’ve had my eyes open for rhubarb at the various grocery stores, but have been disappointed by either its absence or its pallor. I’ve also been disappointed by the fact that I have to buy it at all, since last spring I could just have my mom cut me a pound…or ten (check out the photo below). Such is the price of city living.

rhubarb plant

However, I was able to find some lovely, vibrantly-hued rhubarb at Market Basket this past weekend. My next task was to figure out what to make. This was a challenge not for a lack of recipes, but precisely because there are so many good ones out there! I spent an hour (or so…) googling through recipes. Instead of replicating this search each spring season, I thought I’d take the time to organize and post them here.

These recipes fall into two basic categories — “made by one of us,” or “not yet made by one of us, but maybe next weekend.”

Made by one of us:

rhubarb upside down cake – made this several times, it is a great way to show off really red stalks.

lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake – made this several times, it has a pleasantly tart flavor from the lemon, and I like it more with just powdered sugar instead of with a glaze. This is what I ended up making, by the way! It is an easy one to bring into work.

rhubarb pie with orange zest — this is my favorite pie ever.

rhubarb syrup with rosewater – it turns out I’m not the biggest rosewater fan. If you like it, you should make this, or just use a tiny amount.

rhubarb crisp a la mode with strawberry sauce  Stephanie said, “Very tasty–first rhubarb recipe I tried that I liked and wanted to make it again. Has white pepper in it which adds a nice twist.”

vanilla-roasted rhubarb and strawberries – Stephanie made this and said it was delicious, but I didn’t get to try it — this will probably be my next attempt!

rhubarb and raspberry crostata – Steph made this, I did get to try it, and will thusly vouch for its deliciousness.

rustic rhubarb tarts with corn flour – Deb Perelman’s tweaks to Kim Boyce’s recipe from (the amazing) Good to the Grain. The tender dough breaks apart very easily — make sure to have plenty of all-purpose flour on the counter and your hands. Now that I’ve tried the compote with a vanilla bean, I’d like to try the original version with hibiscus.

Not yet:

rhubarb shortcakes 

rhubarb snacking cake

rhubarb hamantaschen from Deb Perelman’s own amazing book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (this isn’t the link to her blog here, though — and again, I haven’t tried this, but thought I’d link with that caveat and the plug that if you buy Deb’s cookbook, you won’t regret it!).

rhubarb salad with goat cheese

simple baked rhubarb 

lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake

And yes, this is just part 1. Stephanie and I had so many rhubarb recipes to share, they couldn’t all be rounded up in one attempt.  Here’s to many more iterations of sweet (and savory) rhubarb creations! -Megan