Desserts, Sauces, Vegetarian

Rhubarb

On the drive down the North Mountain, I can see a whole field of rhubarb that lies untouched. Every year I watch the giant flower stalks emerge, turn brown, and wither away until the next spring. I have climbed over the barbed wire fence that rings the field and stealthily picked huge bunches. Shaded by a parasol of rhubarb leaves, I snuck back to my car, threw the whole thing into my trunk and zoomed off to my Cafe kitchen. Since then, I have found out who owns the field and can now pick, without looking over my shoulder, for just 20 cents a pound. Rhubarb can often be found in a neighbour’s yard, on roadside tables and in stands, and at farmer’s markets. Pick the slenderest, reddest stalks for the prettiest results and dirty looks from other customers. Rhubarb is inexpensive and versatile. It keeps for weeks wrapped in plastic in the fridge, and freezes very well just chopped up and thrown in a bag. It is also unbelievably sour! Fairly large amounts of sugar are required to soften its bite, but this can be reduced by mixing rhubarb with other sweeter fruits. Strawberry is the classic rhubarb partner, but I also love raspberries with it, or even apple.
For years we served Wild Salmon at the restaurant, pan seared and topped with this simple and delicious chutney. It lasts for months in the fridge, and is good wherever chutney is used: as a topping for Curries, in a little dish beside a platter of Cheese and Crackers, or on a Chicken Sandwich.
Rhubarb Chutney
1 ½ C. Diced Red Onion
1 T. Grated Ginger
1 T. Oil
1 C. Dried Cranberries
1 C. Sugar (we use Just Us!)
1 C. Cider Vinegar
½ C. Apple Cider
½ t. Cardamom
½ t. Ground Coriander
½ t. Salt
4 C. sliced Rhubarb
Saute the onion and ginger in the oil until onions are softened. Add the remaining ingredients except rhubarb and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then add the rhubarb. Cook until rhubarb has softened and broken down and chutney has thickened somewhat. It will thicken more as it cool.
My sister Meagan is a master Crisp Baker. On Sunday, she brought this amazing Rhubarb Crisp to my potluck. The recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe.

Rhubarb Pecan Crisp
6 C. sliced Rhubarb
1 C. Raspberries or sliced Strawberries (optional)
1 T. Unbleached all-purpose Flour
¼ C. Sugar
Toss the rhubarb with the flour and sugar until fairly evenly coated. Place in an ungreased 9 or 10 inch pie pan. Place the raspberries on top. Use the same bowl for the topping:
¾ C. Rolled Oats
¼ C. Oat Bran (or Wheat Germ)
1 T. unbleached all-purpose Flour
1/8 t. Salt
2 T. (packed) Brown Sugar
¼ t. Cinnamon
3 T. minced Pecans
3 T. melted Butter
Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients with a fork or your fingers until uniformly moistened. Crumble the topping mixture over the fruit and pat into place. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until browned on top. Cool for 15 minutes before serving (with Ice Cream, if you’re lucky!)