Sweet And Savory Rhubarb Treats

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Crazy About Rhubarb

All spring we’ve been eyeing the rhubarb plants, waiting for the exact moment to begin the harvest. We started in mid-May and are still gloating over the succulent stalks coming into the kitchen. For the record, I love rhubarb. So do my housemates, and we are having so much fin inventing new ways to appreciate it. Rhubarb crumble? Check. Salsa? Check. Sherbet? Insanely good!!!

I also love rhubarb for its flamboyant good looks. Those bold, ruffled leaves, the wine red or deep green stems, the fountaining plume of florets, so beloved of bees, all make for a plant with a lot of drama. Years ago, when I grew a number of ornamental rhubarbs, it was a full time job to keep my dad from wading into the border, knife in hand, to gather it for the kitchen. I don’t know that the ornamental types are inedible, but since the foliage is pretty toxic, it’s not worth wrecking a perfectly good garden vignette to find out.

Oh Baby

SInce my first grandchild is due any minute (early labor has begun), I’m keeping this short. I will, however, share some of the favorite recipes we’ve come up with this spring, starting with:

Rhubarb Sherbet

4 cups rhubarb, in 1-inch pieces
1 cup water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup honey or sugar to taste
1 cup organic heavy cream

In a saucepan, combine rhubarb with water, bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until soft (15-20 minutes). Put rhubarb through a food mill or puree it, add vanilla and sea salt, then sweeten to taste. Add cream and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker, return to freezer until set (about 30 minutes), then serve. Serves at least one.

Shrimp Salad With Hot Rhubarb Dressing

2 cups cabbage, shredded
4 cups mixed greens
8 ounces cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, sliced
Hot Rhubarb Dressing (see below)

In a large bowl, toss all ingredients, let stand 10 minutes, then serve. Serves 4.

Hot Rhubarb Dressing

1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 dried Italian hot pepper
1 red onion, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon thyme, stemmed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups rhubarb, in 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste)

In a deep saucepan, heat oil, shallot, and dried pepper over medium high heat, stirring, until pepper is well browned (2 minutes). Discard pepper and add onion, thyme, and salt and cook, stirring often, until soft (3-5 minutes). Add rhubarb and orange juice, sprinkle with sugar, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until tender (15-20 minutes).  Use at once or chill for up to 2 days. Makes about 2 cups.

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