Splotched with small tints of red and green, the long stalks of deeply shaded rosy pink lay stacked inside the produce box, their display causing me to somewhat topple the hushed quiet of the little market whose shoppers strolled the aisles to the low filtered music playing tunes of Frank Sinatra and era. Yay! You have Rhubarb, I exclaimed!
The shoppers looked up quickly from their daze before returning to their designated lists. One of the owners standing nearby the register smiled, responding in some measure of my enthusiasm, ‘yes, we just got it in yesterday.’
Finding rhubarb over the past couple of springs has become sort of a ritual for celebration, well enough to shout out the joy, having learned the lesson that when it comes to spring rhubarb, it has sometimes become very difficult to find.
Rhubarb in some ways reminds me of the Tortoise and the Hare, you know… slow and steady wins the race. Well, rhubarb isn’t exactly winning any races, but its sustaining endurance is unmistakable, for the fruit was bordering on near obscurity even in cookbooks of the late 1800’s and 1900’s.
Perhaps it is in part my own sheer stubbornness, but I’m clinging to the idea that folks only need to know how to prepare this delicious fruit along with some ideas on what to do with it, and given these, that most everyone would love the perfect sweet and tart balance that rhubarb, once cooked, offers.
So how do you prepare rhubarb? Easy. Just rinse it off, cut it into cubes, place it into a pot with a scant amount of water and stir in about a cup of sugar to one or one and a quater pounds of rhubarb. You can bake it in the oven for somewhere around thirty minutes or longer, until tender and easily mashed, or, you can cook it on the stove-top for about the same amount of time. I’ve found that baking rather than simmering produces a little more pink colored finish. And that my friends is it.
Now on my first batch around, since I was preparing today’s Strawberry Rhubarb Tart, about twenty minutes into the cooking I added in about 7 chopped strawberries, continuing to simmer on the stove, this will also produce a darker, richer color. Adding in a bit of cornstarch when preparing the tart thickens up the mixture and serves as a nice base for spreading onto the puff pastry.
Once you’ve prepared rhubarb, it may be frozen in batches, leaving other ample amounts for a healthy and delicious spread on your breakfast toast, or as a side sauce to your main course. Last spring I topped it onto fried polenta rounds (shown above) for appetizer bites. Rhubarb serves as delicious dessert or tea time special in pies and tarts such as today’s simple Strawberry Rhubarb Tart. Got some Puff Pastry and a batch of strawberries?
As for today’s treat, even my ten year old grandson, the J-Dude, loved the Strawberry Rhubarb Tart and wanted a second piece! Did you note my ten year old grandson loved it and wanted a second piece? This morning for breakfast his inquiry: ‘Do you know that pink stuff you made?’ ‘Yes,’ I replied. Can I have some of that for breakfast on toast? And sure he did, not just two, but four slices of whole grain toast, only convincing me further that rhubarb must be among springs best kept secrets, one only needs to know how to prepare it and what to do with it. Bon Appetit.
- 1- 1 1/4 pounds rhubarb
- 1/8 cup water
- 1 cup sugar, or a bit more depending on your desired sweetness
- 7 strawberries chopped into small pieces
- 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- lightly greased tart pan
- 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
- a few sprinkles flour for lightly dusting rolling pin and surface area
- enough strawberries to cover the top of the tart pan, halved
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- fresh mint for garnish
- Rinse rhubarb and cut into small half inch chunks, place into a small pan, pour in the water, then stir in the sugar. Simmer rhubarb on stove on very, very low heat around a half hour or longer until tender, and easily mashed. Alternatively bake rhubarb in a 350 degree preheated oven around thirty minutes or longer until rhubarb is tender and easily mashed.
- Around twenty minutes into simmering or baking the rhubarb, stir in the chopped strawberry pieces, cook until the strawberries blend well between the rhubarb. Stir in the cornstarch and cook a bit longer until thickened. Remove from heat, cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out puff pastry to fit the size of tart pan then snuggle in. Spread some strawberry rhubarb mixture evenly across the puff pastry. Place tart pan onto a baking sheet and bake in oven for around twenty-five minutes, more or less until puff pastry is golden brown all over. After the puff pastry has been baking about ten minutes, heat water with sugar in a small pan on low heat until dissolved, then sprinkle in the cornstarch. Gently add in the strawberry halves and fold through to coat the berries for a shiny, sweet finish. Remove tart from oven, let cool to the touch before lifting tart out of the tart pan lining and placing onto a platter. Remove strawberries from the sugar water one at a time topping the tart evenly. Garnish with pieces of fresh mint.