Northeast Times

Vegetables for dessert

Spring sweets: Put rhubard on the top of your next shop­ping list. You won’t re­gret it.

If you happened to be listen­ing to Red Barber’s ra­dio com­ment­ary one night back in 1943, you’d know that the term “rhu­barb” is base­ball slang for a heated ar­gu­ment on the ball field. It seems that Barber, the an­noun­cer for what were then the Brook­lyn Dodgers, learned of the term from two sports re­port­ers who had been speak­ing with a Brook­lyn bar­tender. The bar­tender had de­scribed a bar­room ar­gu­ment over base­ball where a Brook­lyn fan shot a Gi­ants fan as a “rhu­barb.” From the base­ball field to the farm­er’s field, rhu­barb is one of Moth­er Nature’s first gifts of the grow­ing sea­son. You can also grow rhu­barb in your garden, but it takes a few years to be­come es­tab­lished be­fore you can pick it.

Rhu­barb, also known as the pie plant, is one of my in­her­ited, in­nate food crav­ings come spring­time. Since child­hood, I have looked for­ward to en­joy­ing rhu­barb, which ex­udes sweet-tart good­ness when baked in­to a spe­cial treat. But, it is not a ve­get­able to be eaten raw.

Botan­ic­ally clas­si­fied as a ve­get­able (just like the to­mato), rhu­barb is a per­en­ni­al that is used as a fruit to make an as­sort­ment of pies, cakes, breads and muffin, as well as pud­dings, rel­ishes, jams, jel­lies and ice creams. Rhu­barb can be baked or stewed or com­bined with its com­pat­ible com­pan­ion, the straw­berry. Fer­men­ted with sug­ar, rhu­barb can also be made in­to wine.

Rhu­barb is a good source of vit­am­in A and K, po­tassi­um and some vit­am­in C, as well as valu­able min­er­al ele­ments. Since many vit­am­ins are con­tained in its skin, rhu­barb should nev­er be peeled. The rhu­barb’s enorm­ous green leaves con­tain ox­al­ic acid, which is pois­on­ous, and, if eaten in large amounts, could be fatal.

Shop for fresh rhu­barb stalks that are sturdy and firm, and keep them re­fri­ger­ated. Rhu­barb also freezes well. Just wash the stalks, cut them in one-inch pieces, and bag freeze them for later use.

Un­like the bor­ing, new rules for in­stant re­play in base­ball, here are a few rhu­barb re­cipes you will want to re­play again and again.

RHU­BARB CRUNCH

4 cups fresh rhu­barb, cut in­to 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Crust and Top­ping:

1½ cups flour

1½ cups oat­meal

1 cup brown sug­ar

¾ cup but­ter, melted

1½ tsp. cin­na­mon

½ tsp. nut­meg

¼ cup chopped nuts

Sauce:

1 cup sug­ar

2 Tb­sp. corn­starch

1 cup wa­ter

1 tsp. vanilla

- Wash and cut rhu­barb in­to 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

- In a bowl, mix to­geth­er the crust and top­ping in­gredi­ents un­til crumbly.

- Press two-thirds of this mix­ture in­to a 9x9-inch pan.

- Evenly ar­range the cut rhu­barb over the oat­meal-flour crust. Set aside.

- In a me­di­um pot, com­bine sug­ar, corn­starch, wa­ter and vanilla.

- Bring mix­ture to a boil and cook un­til it be­comes clear. Pour evenly over rhu­barb.

- Top with re­main­ing oat­meal-flour crust-top­ping.

- Bake 45 minutes at 350 de­grees.

- Al­low to cool slightly or re­fri­ger­ate. Good either warm or cold.

- Sprinkle with con­fec­tion­er’s sug­ar be­fore serving.

STRAW­BERRY-RHU­BARB CRUMB PIE

1 pie crust (9-inch) - sprinkle with 1 Tb­sp. fine bread crumbs

Filling:

1 cup sug­ar

3 Tb­sp. flour

1 Tb­sp. fine bread crumbs

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nut­meg

3 cups rhu­barb, cut in­to 1-inch pieces

1½ cups straw­ber­ries, hulled and cut in half

1 tsp. lem­on juice

 - Com­bine sug­ar, flour, bread crumbs, salt and nut­meg in a large bowl. Stir to mix well.

 - Add rhu­barb, straw­ber­ries and lem­on juice. Toss in flour mix­ture to coat.

Crumb Top­ping:

1/3 cup but­ter

1 cup flour

½ cup sug­ar

1 tsp. cin­na­mon

1/8 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. vanilla

Sug­ar – Sprinkle over crumbs

- Use a food pro­cessor, a pastry cut­ter or two knives to cut the but­ter in­to the flour mix­ture to form small crumbs. Or use your hands. 

- Pre­heat the oven to 450 de­grees.

- Evenly dis­trib­ute the rhu­barb-straw­berry-flour filling in­to the bread crumb-sprinkled pie crust.

- Cov­er the filling evenly with the crumb top­ping.

- Sprinkle the crumbs with sug­ar.

- Place alu­min­um foil un­der the pie. (Rhu­barb be­comes juicy and can bubble up.)

- Bake 15 minutes at 450 de­grees.

- Turn down oven to 350 de­grees. Con­tin­ue to bake for 30-35 minutes un­til juices thick­en and are bub­bly.

Eat well, live long, en­joy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats­cook­in­NEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the North­east Times, 2512 Met­ro­pol­it­an Drive, Tre­vose, PA 19053)

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