Food Friday: Roll Out the Rhubarb!

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Isn’t spring great? That’s if you can be flexible about the weather, and endure a couple of unexpectedly soggy days which can ruin your weekend plans? As you wander through the farmers’ market, or even the more prosaic grocery store produce department, you can see piles of lovely, gleaming, jewel-like fruits and vegetables, and you can feel the excitement of the recent discoveries of all the prescient food editors. Suddenly, you can see why Bon Appétit has a page about the beauty of rhubarb. Just look at it! Look at those pinks! Admire that green! Rhubarb could be a charming vintage Lilly Pulitzer print, without all the cumbersome Palm Beach pretenses. Rhubarb, that coy herbaceous perennial, is here, but it isn’t going to last forever, so get out your thinking caps.

As you might suspect, there are many ways in which to indulge your rhubarb yen. When the Spy was a shiny new publication, our esteemed colleague, Nancy Taylor Robson, shared a family recipe for her Orange-and-ginger-infused Crisp, which is still on the Food52 website, because it is brilliant, and very tasty, too. https://food52.com/recipes/4326-orange-and-ginger-infused-crisp-by-nancy-taylor-robson Nancy buried her lede, because this orange-and-ginger-infused-crisp also contains four cups of rhubarb. It is, as we like to say, yumsters. And four cups of rhubarb will help thin the rhubarb plant in your back yard.

Nancy emailed me the other day to say she had recently baked a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies. Note that she did not include an invitation to eat said pies. One can imagine that a pie baked by Nancy is quite divine. I am going to try my hand at this recipe by Deb Perelman and her Smitten Kitchen: https://smittenkitchen.com/2010/06/strawberry-rhubarb-pie-improved/ Her pie has been featured on NPR, and will be fact-checked and verified delicious.

I have a new website that I am exploring, and I hope you like it, too. I like a little levity, because all is too grim these days. Endless Simmer has a cheerful attitude. And some mighty fine recipe ideas. And I think Strawberry Scones (with chunks o’rhubarb) are a fabulous idea. Rhubarb doesn’t have to be just for dessert. It can be for breakfast, too. An tea! It is an all-purpose rhizome. http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2012/05/25/this-week-at-the-farmers-market-rhubarb-its-whats-for-breakfast/

But where would we be without some helpful hints from our clever friends at Food52? Not only do they have access to the extravagant resources available to New Yorkers, they are cutting-edge home cooks. I think their strawberry-rhubarb ice cream is so much better than last week’s asparagus ice cream. https://food52.com/recipes/4323-strawberry-rhubarb-ice-cream (I found dried angelica root here: https://www.americanspice.com/angelica-root/, but I am just skipping that ingredient. )

But I am saving the best for last – a Rhubarb Collins. This is the way to enjoy spring, a nice tall Collins glass in hand as you sit on the back porch, watching the cardinals dart from the bird feeder, while that bunny sits calmly in the back yard, nibbling the grass that you have no intention to mow today. Pour some more Champagne, please!

Rhubarb Collins

1 stalk rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup sugar
2 ounces gin
1 ounce lemon juice
2 to 4 ounces Champagne

Make a simple syrup with the rhubarb and sugar: combine the rhubarb and sugar with 3/4 cup water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until slightly thickened and bright pink in color, about 20 minutes. Let the syrup cool then pour through a colander set over a bowl. Press down gently and toss the solids. (The rhubarb simple syrup can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.)
Combine one ounce of the rhubarb simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with the gin and lemon juice. Fill the shaker with ice and shake vigorously until completely mixed. Strain into a chilled highball glass and top with Champagne or Prosecco. Add a straw, and a strawberry for decoration. Drink. Repeat. Enjoy. Spring is fleeting!

“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.”
-Groucho Marx

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