Cooking enthusiasts occasionally chide me for not giving my readers precise recipes. I’m an enormous fan of the exacting, chemical nature of cooking and baking, but I also like to encourage people to cook from the gut, tasting and intuiting along the way. That said, I am taking a moment to once a gain sing the praises of rhubarb and to ask you to find a way to bring it to your summer table.
Whatever your favorite crisp recipe may be, I would recommend finding a way to bump it up a level. A few nights ago I did this with my old standby of a rhubarb crisp concoction. I added a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and a tbsp. of powdered ginger and yum, it was a kicky, delicious taste experience. Now, if you are serving someone who is already on-the-fence about the taste of rhubarb, it may be too much for them. But for the converted, it really adds some tang and zip.
My rhubarb crisp recipe goes something like this: 4 cups, cubed rhubarb, a cup of small, whole strawberries and a cup or so of sweetener like stevia, Splenda or sugar (or a combination of all of them). I combined these and let them set to sweeten and then I added the powdered ginger and balsamic vinegar. I then tasted and adjusted. Here is where you learn to trust your palate. Then I pour this all in a baking dish and topped it with a mixture of two cups oatmeal, two tbsp. olive oil and some more stevia and I bake at 375 for 50 minutes. Tangy Greek yogurt sweetened up a bit makes a great topping.
If you don’t have a rhubarb patch, find a spot for one. They are really quite ornamental and of course, useful. Plants are practically carefree and are available at any nursery or garden center, many summer yard sales, and almost any aunt or grandma’s house.
If you still aren’t sold, read an excerpt from a the current fiction piece I’m working on, where I wax poetic on the power of rhubarb:
Leetha is already at my house by the time I make it back and I stand my bike against her Dodge, near the back door by the rhubarb plant. It is in full ruffle, greeting me, begging to be picked, to be used. I know many a Midwesterner’s life made better by the familiar mound that dots many yards up here in the North.
Rhubarb possesses all the traits of a great lover, a partner, a spouse. It is dependable, hardy, and only gets better from being picked, by being noticed.
It is a happy plant that can be sweet or savory, depending on how you want it to be. It can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. A rhubarb plant’s needs are simple, as it grows contently just about anywhere it is planted. I could start a campaign to get a plant in every yard in Gaylord and maybe neighboring Arlington, Winthrop, and Nicollet. I can divide my enormous patch and pot small plants up, sell them and bake rhubarb crisp, bars, sauce, and dessert to sell and serve along with them at the garden center.