Seasonal Chef: Rhubarb

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Rhubarb … it’s one of those mysterious ingredients in the produce aisle. Not being a regular “baker” it doesn’t call to me. My friend Lynn grows it and cooks with it a lot. Particularly making the ubiquitous Strawberry Rhubarb Pie that my step-daughter Elinor adores. So when I decided to highlight it this week, as it’s in season, I wondered how I could make it savory? The bunch I brought home was picked up at the Chappaqua Farmers Market from Madura Farms.

The leaves are poisonous, and typically are removed by the time they get to the store. However, if you are harvesting yourself, be sure to throw them away! If the stalks are really thick you can remove the outside strings by peeling them with a small paring knife. The texture of the stalk is similar to celery, the flavor however, is a different story!

The flavor of rhubarb is distinct and remarkably tart. In desserts it’s typically macerated with sugar and paired with strawberry to balance its bite. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) So how do incorporate it another way?

More after the jump …

After a quick perusal of my cabinet I came across some red lentils. Maybe a stew? One of my clients that I cook for has a child that was, up until recently, a vegetarian. So a few years ago when I started cooking for them I needed to make a lot of vegetarian dishes every week. I picked up Mark Bittman’s tome on all things vegetable, and it has been my go-to reference for many, many ingredients. Happily to my surprise he has a Dal recipe using red lentils, with the suggestion of adding rhubarb! His recipe is below, but I can tell you now this could not be an easier dish to make. You basically put everything together in the pot, add water and let it all cook together to create a creamy spicy stew. Dals are typically found in Indian cuisine, made with lentils and served over rice.

I’m sure you’re saying, “Come on Maria, where is the rhubarb dessert?” All right … here is just about the simplest “crumble” dessert you can make. (The recipe is below.) I found these incredibly amazing strawberries at Tarry Market.

The white ones are called Pineberry and the red ones are Strasberry. Really beautiful and luscious. The pineberries taste like a cross between a pineapple and strawberry. The strasberries are  wild strawberries that resemble a raspberry. They don’t taste like them, just a similar shape.

After macerating the rhubarb in some sugar, I added the strawberries and a little flour.

A simple crumble topping of butter, flour, brown sugar and oats.

Place in ramikens and bake for 20 minutes. How easy is that?

I hope I’ve enticed you to purchase some rhubarb this weekend. It’s relatively inexpensive, readily available and super easy to use.

Buon Appetito!

Red Lentil Dal with Rhubarb (recipe adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

Serves 4

1 cup dry red lentils

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

2 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed

2 whole cloves

1 teaspoon coarse grated black pepper

1 small dried ancho chili

1 cup rhubarb, 1/4-inch dice

kosher salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a small pot. Cover with cool water by 1 inch. Cook at a steady simmer for about 30-40 minutes, seasoning with salt as they cook. (Remember, add your salt slowly. You can always add, but you can’t remove!)

After you get a nice thick consistency remove the cloves and cardamom and stir in the butter. I tossed in a little cilantro too. You can serve this over the rice of your choice warm or over a nice piece of crusty bread at room temp.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 4

2 cups rhubarb, 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups small strawberries, quartered

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup oats

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl mix the rhubarb and sugar. While the rhubarb is macerating clean and quarter the strawberries. Add to the bowl along with the flour and mix well. Combine the rest of the ingredients working the butter into the mixture with your fingers.

Divide the fruit between 4 ramekins and top with the oat mixture. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil. (The mixture is going to bubble over.) Bake for 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Top with ice cream if desire.
Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

3 Comments

  1. Yes, rhubarb is a wonderful ingredient, probably underused. I must say, however, don’t peel it, even if it’s a little older. You lose the beautiful red color.

    Your red lentil dal with rhubarb dish is a creative use of rhubarb, but even as a savory dish, doesn’t it need something sweet to offset the extreme tartness of the rhubarb?

    I hope you will be doing a cooking demo soon. Please let me know.

  2. Hi Phillis, Thanks for commenting! No, the rhubarb cooks down beautifully and almost disappears into the dal. The tartness is smoothed out and adds a lovely dimension to the dish. I do have some demos on the calendar for June. You can find the information on website at: http://www.bellacucinamaria.com, under the Farmers Market tab.
    Ciao ciao!

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