Thursday, May 27, 2010

What to Preserve Now: Rhubarb - The Sweetest Vegetable

Rhubarb Oat Bars, recipe to follow

Although usually associated with desserts, rhubarb is actually a vegetable - one related to sorrel, a tangy green that I wrote about here. I love to watch rhubarb melt from hard fibrous chunks to velvety, pink-tinged mush. I also appreciate its ability to pair with both sweet and savory dishes whether as tart counterpoint to pork or duck, or as an accompaniment to its fairer and fruitier spring partner, the strawberry.

Given its versatility, be sure to put some up before it disappears. I preserve my rhubarb in two ways: in the freezer and as marmalade. At the start of this series, I talked about my Rhubarb-Grapefruit Marmalade, click here for the recipe.

Three Methods for Freezing Rhubarb

1. Trim and cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Pack in airtight bags or containers and freeze.

2. Trim and cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Cook with granulated sugar (4 stalks to 1/4 cup sugar) until soft. Cool and then pack in airtight bags or containers and freeze.

3. You can also freeze rhubarb after cooking sous vide, a process I described here. Seal it and cook at 140 F degrees for 45 minutes or until soft. Cool and freeze in the sealed bag.

You can use frozen rhubarb to sweeten up your winter in custards, pies, ice creams, and beverages (I love a mint-rhubarb cooler).

Rhubarb-Oat Bars
Serves 8 generously

1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, scooped and leveled
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour, scooped and leveled
¼ cup cornstarch, scooped and leveled
2 tablespoons wheat germ, raw or toasted
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large stalks of rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
Juice and zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup honey
1 sprig of rosemary, tied up in a cheesecloth bundle
½ cup rolled oats
5 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons butter, softened slightly

Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment. Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, mix together flours, cornstarch, wheat germ, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar for about 1 minute. Add vanilla extract and mix for 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Press the dough into the pan. Score lightly into 1-inch by 2 ¼-inch fingers. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until crust is firm to the touch. Cool slightly.

While the crust is baking, make the rhubarb filling. Pour the orange juice over the rhubarb in a medium saucepan. Scoop in honey and add rosemary. Cook until the rhubarb has broken down and the mixture has thickened, approximately 15 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth bundle.

When the crust has cooled slightly, spread the rhubarb over it.

In a small bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter using your fingers, until the mixture just holds together. Sprinkle it over the rhubarb. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is golden about 15-20 minutes.

Let cool. Using the edges of the parchment, remove from the pan to a cutting board and cut into slices.

Rhubarb-Red Wine Sauce
4 servings

This was a delicious accompaniment to sole coated in a pecan-flour breading. I bet it would also pretty great on roast pork or duck.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
3 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and rhubarb and cook for a few minutes. Pour vinegar, maple syrup, and red wine over the rhubarb and add grated ginger. Cook until the rhubarb is softened and the liquid is reduced, approximately 15 minutes. Cut the remaining butter into small pieces and whisk in 1 one piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper.

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