Reveling In Rhubarb Sorbet
Even in a cold year like this, by early April the garden is waking up and stretching. Herbs abound, greens are coming on fast, and asparagus is finally big enough to pick. Finding the year’s first rhubarb is always an event that requires celebration. Here are some celebratory and tasty ways to try this fascinating vegetable, which is usually classified as a fruit because of its tangy, citrus-like flavor.
I first tasted Rhubarb Sorbet at an elegant dinner party where all the guests were gardeners, including England’s Penelope Hobhouse. Penelope was the only one able to guess what this silky, delicate dish was made of that night, and I’ve stumped everybody I’ve served it to ever since. Light, refreshing and subtly flavorful, it makes a perfect finish for a rich meal.
8 cups (about 2 pounds) rhubarb stems, chopped in 1 inch pieces
1 – 2 cups sugar OR 1/2 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Rinse rhubarb and place, still wet, in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle with 1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup honey, cover pan and “sweat’ fruit until juices start to run. Reduce heat to low, stir in nutmeg and simmer until very tender (about 20 minutes). Taste the mush at this point and add more sweetener if desired. Put mush through a ricer or rub through a strainer to remove “strings”. Freeze in an ice cream maker or in an ice cube tray (stir every hour with a fork to break up ice crystals). Makes about 3 cups.
Beautiful Blood Oranges
In Italy, moros or blood oranges arrive at the tail end of winter. I have been delighted to find this tart-sweet, dusky skinned fruit at my local grocery store from late winter into early spring. Though its season is short, its savor is sumptuous and the sparkling red color is especially lovely.
Mottled with ruby red and deep orange, peeled blood orange sections are excellent in salads. They also add snap to Halibut With Rhubarb and Blood Orange Chutney. Fresh halibut fillets are lightly pan fried, then served with a splash of fresh sweet-and-sour chutney, spunky with hot peppers. This garlicky sauce is also splendid with all kinds of meat, from turkey or chicken to roast pork or lamb.
Halibut With Rhubarb and Blood Orange Chutney
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 dried hot peppers
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
1-3 tablespoons sugar OR fructose
2 organic blood oranges, sectioned, membrane peeled
1 1/2 pounds halibut fillet (2 inches thick), cut in four pieces
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed
In a saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil with the dried peppers over medium high heat. Brown the peppers well, discard peppers and add half the garlic and the onion. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, the cumin, coriander, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until golden (5-7 minutes). Add rhubarb, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Add sugar to taste (mixture should taste sweet-tart). Remove from heat, stir in blood orange sections, set aside. In a shallow pan, heat remaining oil and garlic over medium high heat. Add halibut and cook over medium heat until fish is opaque when flaked (5-6 minutes per side, internal temperature of 136 degrees F). Serve at once, garnished with rhubarb orange chutney and cilantro. Serves 4.
A Spunky Spring Dessert
Those who love not-too-sweet treats appreciate Rhubarb Brown Betty. This New England Classic is usually made with lots of butter and topped with whipped cream. Here is a leaner version with a fresh, bright flavor and a crunchy walnut-hazelnut topping.
Rhubarb Brown Betty
3 cups fresh whole grain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons walnut oil OR vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 organic orange, juiced, rind grated
8 cups rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 – 2 cups sugar OR 1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
In a food processor or mixing bowl, blend bread crumbs, butter, oil, spices and brown sugar, set aside. Line a baking dish with 1/3 of the crumb mix, top with rhubarb and sprinkle with sugar or fructose. Use the lesser amount if you prefer tart desserts and the greater amount for a sweeter one. Drizzle with orange juice and sprinkle on 1 teaspoon grated rind. Blend nuts into remaining crumbs and pat over top of rhubarb. Bake at 350 until golden brown (about 45 minutes). Serve hot. Serves 4-6.
What lovely sounding recipes! When I was growing up my mother was famous for her rhubarb pies, but we never ventured into other uses for rhubarb. I’m growing rhubarb for the first time, and was just wondering this morning how to tell when it’s ready to pick. My plant has been in the ground for almost 2 years, and today I finally see long pink stalks, so maybe it’s pie or sorbet time at last.
I’m happy to discover your blog. Years ago I very much enjoyed your books on gardening with children, I especially remember Sunflower Houses.
Hi Martha, thanks for your kind comments and I’m glad the rhubarb tips were timely, but I’m guessing you are remembering Sharon Lovejoy’s books on gardening with children; they are lovely!
Having noticed our Rhubarb was maturing and ready for harvest, we read your recipe and decided to give it a try. The results were first class! Thank you!