Calgary·RECIPE

Bunches of recipes for your backyard rhubarb

Rhubarb plants already are monstrous in Calgary yards and back alleys this year, prompting those who love eating the tart, ruby stalks to come up with uses beyond the traditional pie.

Tart, ruby stalks make for delicious dressings, syrups, pies and scones

There are so many options for cooking with rhubarb, from pies to cocktails. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Rhubarb plants are already monstrously large in Calgary yards and back alleys this year, prompting those who love eating the tart, ruby stalks to come up with uses beyond the traditional pie.

One of my favourite things to do with rhubarb is to stew it.

Simply chop and simmer with sugar or honey and perhaps a splash of juice. Keep it in the fridge to eat chilled with yogurt and granola, spooned over cheesecake or ice cream, or use it to make ice cream.

Try it in Eton mess. A crumbled meringue layered with stewed, sweet-tart fruit and whipped cream is my idea of the perfect dessert.

Ditto roasted rhubarb. Trimmed stalks can be spread out on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish. Toss with sugar and roasted at 177 C (350 F) for 20 minutes, or until the stalks are tender, depending on their girth.

Then keep in the fridge to lay on top of cake batter before baking, underneath for an upside-down cake, baked into tarts or eaten straight with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream.

To freeze, simply chop rhubarb and store in freezer bags, no cooking or additional prep required.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie is a classic dish in the spring. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Add straight from frozen to muffins, scones, loaves, even smoothies. The smaller stalks chop into bits perfect to sub in for berries you might typically add to baked goods.

I also like shaking some frozen rhubarb into fruit crisps and pies year-round. It pairs well with everything from apples to peaches and other stone fruit, adding tartness in much the same way a squeeze of lemon would.

Chutney and syrup are good creations to have handy. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

If you haven't tried adding chopped rhubarb to savoury dishes and curries, try it. It adds bursts of tartness in much the same way apples do. It makes a delicious pairing with roast chicken and pork, particularly in the form of relish or chutney. This is a great way to preserve your harvest. I often freeze some to serve with turkey at Thanksgiving.

And you can always make pie.

Here are a few summery rhubarb recipes to try:

Strawberry-rhubarb pie

Other kinds of fruit and berries do well with rhubarb. I particularly like raspberry-rhubarb. Blueberries, apples, peaches and plums are delicious pairings, too.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie can be made with a top crust or woven top crust. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Pastry ingredients

2-2/3 cups all-purpose flour.

1 tbsp sugar.

Pinch of salt.

1 cup butter, chilled and grated or cut into pieces. Or try half butter, half lard.

½ cup cold water.

Filling ingredients

3 cups chopped rhubarb.

2 cups chopped strawberries.

1 cup sugar.

3 tbsp cornstarch.

Preparation

To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Add or grate in the butter.

Blend with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture is coarse, with pea-sized pieces of butter. If you like, rub them between your fingers and thumbs to make flat, flaky pieces of butter.

Add the water and stir just until the dough comes together. It's OK if it's shaggy.

Gather into a ball and divide in half. I usually make one piece slightly smaller than the other.

For the lid, shape each into a disc. Wrap in plastic and let rest or refrigerate for an hour or up to three days. Alternatively, the pastry can be frozen to use later on.

You can brush the crust with cream. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 204 C (400 F).

On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger half of dough out into a 25- to 30-centimetre, or 10- to 12-inch, circle, depending on the size of your pie plate. You want it a bit bigger than the plate.

Transfer to your pie plate, gently pressing it into the bottom and letting the edges hang over.

Put your rhubarb and strawberries into a large bowl. You can use the same one without needing to wash it. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the sugar and cornstarch.

Pour over the fruit and toss to coat.

You can make pies and then freeze them for treats in cooler weather. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Scrape the fruit into the pie crust and roll out the lid in the same manner.

Drape over the pie, pressing down around the edge to help them connect.

Trim the edge by running a knife around the edge of the plate, cutting away any excess pastry. Crimp the edge with your fingers and thumb, a fork, whatever you like or what your grandma taught you.

Try a woven top crust. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

If you like, you can freeze your pie at this point. Otherwise, bake it at 204 C (400 F) for 15 minutes.

Then turn the heat down to 177 C (350 F) for an hour, or until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbly.

Let cool before slicing.

Serving: Eight slices.

Creamy rhubarb dressing

Rhubarb is brilliant in marinades or as a base for barbecue sauce. Try it as a slightly thick, creamy vinaigrette in place of, or along with, whatever acid you'd normally use, like lemon juice or vinegar.

When simmered and blended, rhubarb is perfectly smooth. Its fibre gives the dressing body without adding mayonnaise. If you dribble the oil into the blender as it's running, the oil will thicken and emulsify the blend, such as a creamy ranch dressing or aioli.

Bonus: it's not like a vinaigrette that separates and you have to re-shake before using. It stays pure and smooth, pink, sweet and tangy.

Rhubarb dressing is creamy and doesn't separate. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

1 medium rhubarb stalk, chopped.

2 tbsp honey.

2 tbsp rice vinegar. Red wine or raspberry vinegar would work well, too.

2 tsp grainy Dijon mustard, or to taste.

¼ cup canola, another mild vegetable or olive oil.

Salt and pepper.

Preparation

In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb with ¼ to ½ cup water for five minutes, or until very soft.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Put the rhubarb into a blender with the honey, vinegar and mustard. Pulse until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil.

Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Rhubarb cream scones

Chopped rhubarb can be added to any scone recipe. This is a particularly simple version I make regularly when there's a cup of extra cream in the fridge.

Rhubarb scones are nice with a cup of tea. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

1½ cups all-purpose flour.

2 tbsp sugar.

1½ tsp baking powder.

¼ tsp salt.

1 cup heavy whipping cream.

1 tsp vanilla.

½ cup chopped rhubarb.

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling optional.

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 218 C (425 F).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cream and vanilla, and start to stir.

Add the rhubarb and stir just until the dough comes together.

Gather it up into a ball, getting any dry bits up out of the bowl with your hands. Fold it over itself a couple times as you gather it up, and pat into a circle 2.5 centimetres, or one inch, thick on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Turn the dough into a circle and then slice it into wedges. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

If you like, brush the top with a bit of cream. I usually have enough left in the bottom of the measuring cup. Sprinkle with sugar.

Cut into six to eight wedges with a sharp knife.

Pull the scones apart so that they have room to brown.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden.

Serving: Makes 6 scones.

Rhubarb chutney

Rhubarb is perfect for tart chutneys. Serve this with grilled or roasted chicken or pork.

Feel free to add other fruits in season, particularly if they're overripe and need using. I've made this with chopped or grated pears, apples, peaches and even cranberries.

Rhubarb chutney is tasty to have around the house. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Ingredients

Canola or olive oil.

1 small onion, finely chopped.

4-5 stalks rhubarb, chopped.

1 small apple, chopped, optional.

1 handful of raisins, optional.

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger.

¾ cup sugar, white or brown.

1/3 cup red wine vinegar.

1 cinnamon stick.

Preparation

Heat a drizzle of oil in a medium saucepan.

Cook the onion for about five minutes, until soft and starting to turn golden.

Add everything else. Bring to a simmer.

Reduce the heat and cook for about half an hour, until everything is nice and soft and it looks like chutney.

Ladle into clean jars and seal, or refrigerate or freeze.

Serving: Makes about 2.5 cups.

Rhubarb syrup

Of course, rhubarb syrup should be a staple of all prairie kitchens during the summer months.

Stew rhubarb in water at about two parts rhubarb to one part water. Mash right in the pot, strain and sweeten to taste.

For a true simple syrup, simmer one part liquid to one part sugar.

Add to cocktails or straight to sparkling water for a drink that tastes like pure summer.


​With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.

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