Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring's Bounty: Rhubarb

As spring trudges onward, so does the prolific rhubarb plant. It's not phased by heat, rain, drought, freezing temperatures, or neglect. Poor soil...not a problem for this guy. This is truly a great beginners plant.
I have watched mine grow for three years now. I must say, it has been quite the transformation to whiteness. I started with one small plant with such tender stalks...a mature plant that will continue to provide me with such a great wealth of nourishment has emerged!

Rhubarb has been shown to reduce cancer risks, improve lung health & circulation, and reduce cholesterol. It is also full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy properties, as well as rich in fiber, calcium, lutein, vitamin K, and vitamin C*. An all-around health fruit in my book!

Growing up, we had three massive plants in our garden...always the first thing to sprout, denoting  spring had arrived! I both admired and feared this plant respectably.

The first thing I remember about this fruit is that you NEVER eat it's leaves. They are extremely toxic and should never be eaten or played with (I had a habit of picking 'weeds' in my parents' garden and smashing them up to create a 'new recipe'!!).

With huge broad leaves, they create such a presence in the garden. Given the fact they are hardy, they are a permanent figure as well!  I knew, growing up, I would have at least one in my garden. And I must admit, this was the first plant I purchased from our local Bi-Mart for our new house!

We never ate much rhubarb growing up even though we had so much. Every-so-often my mom would cook some down with sugar - and for special occasions, cooked with strawberries! - and put it on top of biscuits or homemade ice cream, or she would spoil us with a batch or two of fresh rhubarb bread. I will admit though, I have never had a rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pie :-(

So this year I made a pact with myself...I'm going to learn how to use this amazing fruit! I have been experimenting, and along with the bread, I have found a few more recipes I've enjoyed and am thrilled to share! Here they are: Rhubarb Sorbet & Rhubarb Oat Bars.

Rhubarb Sorbet
(I found this recipe last year in Cooking Light magazine. I've waited all winter to be able to test it...and yes, yes it was well worth the wait! It's tart, yet sweet, and carries the distinct taste of rhubarb exquisitely! Outrageously refreshing!)

5 c. sliced rhubarb ( ~1 1/4 lbs.)
1 qt. water
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Combine rhubarb and water in a large saucepan. Boil for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Strain mixture through a sieve, into a large bowl, pressing the rhubarb solids, with a wooden spoon, against the sieve, to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids when finished.

Add sugars to warm juice; stir until dissolved. Cover and chill.

Pour mixture into an ice-cream freezer and precess according to product specifications. Spoon sorbet into freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for one hour.

Remove 10 minutes prior to serving to soften.


Rhubarb Oat Bars

(If you enjoy the tart flavor of rhubarb, this is the dessert for you. These bars are soft and moist, like my rhubarb bread, with a scrupulous exotic topping! I found this a number of years ago in Taste of Home and fell in love with it!)

1 1/2 c. chopped rhubarb
1c. packed brown sugar
4 Tbs. water, divided
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 c. old-fashioned oats
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. flaked coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c. melted butter

In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, 1/2 c. brown sugar, 3 Tbs. water and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med.; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.

Combine the cornstarch and reminding water until smooth' gradually stir into rhubarb mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for two minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, coconut, salt and remaining brown sugar. Stir in butter until mixture is crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Spread with rhubarb mixture. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture and press down lightly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-3 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and cut into squares. Place on a platter and enjoy!

I hope you are able to enjoy these recipes as much as I have. While they not me my 'family' recipes, I plan on passing these down. Have fun!

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