How to Eat Your Box:
I’m thinking of starting a countdown-to-rhubarb calendar. Every day I’d get the satisfaction of crossing off another day knowing that I was inching my way closer to enjoying one of my favorite vegetables. Yes, I said vegetable.
Rhubarb is a hearty plant that thrives in the Pacific Northwest. It has a short season that begins in early spring. It’s often one of the first signs that let’s us know spring is indeed coming. And you know what my rhubarb countdown calendar is telling me right now? IT’S TIME FOR RHUBARB!
The leaves are poisonous so we’ll stay away from those but the celery like stalks have a crisp, tart crunch. Fresh rhubarb stalks should look firm and glossy. When sugar is added the tartness is tamed to the point of palatability and you are left with a floral flavor that somehow matches its brilliant pink color (although some varieties are green) that maintains a puckering sharpness that I find irresistible.
But sugar is not rhubarb’s only friend. Rhubarb makes a beautiful pickle to top salads or sit charmingly on a cheese board. Or in chutneys and sauces to serve alongside roast pork or chicken.
My favorite and most used way with rhubarb is to cut the stalks in 3-inch sticks then roast with a bit of sugar (or honey) – not too much as I love to retain the mouth clutching brightness. Sometimes I’ll even throw in a vanilla bean or some fresh ginger. Roast (400°F) for about 20 minutes. Don’t disturb the stalks too much as they are incredibly tender when they cook. Serve on top of yogurt or oatmeal in the morning, put in between layers of cake or serve over ice cream for dessert.
Garnet Yams are the brilliantly orange colored tubers that often get mistaken for a sweet potato. Yams and sweet potatoes are in fact distinctively different. However, because of mislabeling in American grocery stores, these two are commonly confused.
Yams are more nutrient dense than potatoes as they have good amounts of potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C but I often use them in the same way as potatoes. They are delicious baked and loaded with beans, scallions and a bit of cheese. Or, make a lovely mash or soup. They have a natural sweetness that pairs nicely with something acidic like lemons or vinegars.
As with most vegetables, yams are delicious roasted. Cut into wedges then toss with a little bit of cornstarch and finely grated Parmesan. The cornstarch helps to lock in the moisture so they turn crispy and more fry-like in the oven. Drizzle on a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper then roast in a hot oven 425-450°F for 20 – 30 minutes or until caramelized in parts and tender.
NOTE: Read Ashley’s guest post for this week’s newsletter, here.
Featured Recipe: RHUBARB FLOATS
By Ashley Rodriguez, Not Without Salt
Of all the many wonderful uses of rhubarb this syrup remains my favorite. It’s a fridge staple all through spring as it easily becomes the base for numerous cocktails, sodas and now ice cream floats. I love the warmth the spice brings but just rhubarb alone is great too. Feel free to play around with the add-ins. I’ve also added citrus peel into the mix with great results.
4 cups/1 pound/ 450 g chopped rhubarb
1 cup + 1 tablespoon/ 8 ounces/ 230 g sugar
2 cups/ 1 pound/ 450 grams water
1 vanilla bean (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
3-5 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently. Boil for 15 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool.
When cool, strain out the rhubarb. Save the rhubarb mash to add to yogurt, on top of ice cream or oatmeal.
Rhubarb syrup will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks.
For the float
These measurements are rough as it’s all a matter of taste. Adjust how you’d like. I kept on meaning to muddle strawberries with the syrup before adding the club soda and ice cream but got too excited that I forgot. Perhaps you’ll remember. Or imagine using strawberry ice cream or even coconut sorbet. So many floats to be had.
1/8 – 1/4 cup rhubarb syrup (recipe above)
1/2 cup club soda
1 scoop vanilla ice cream
Add the syrup to a glass. To that add a scoop of ice cream and finish with club soda. Serve with a spoon and a straw.