Tart or sweet? Have rhubarb your way

  • Tue May 25th, 2010 9:44am
  • Life

By Jan Roberts-Dominguez

After almost 67 years of marriage, there is a certain amount of predictability in my parents’ relationship. The ensuing conversations that spring from recurring scenarios go from cute to obnoxious.

One of my favorites is their seasonal food fight. Nothing like pie in the face or pudding down the pants. My parents disagree about how sweet things should be.

In the summer, it’s Mom’s three-bean salad. Dad likes it sweet. Mom doesn’t.

During winter months, Dad likes to fix baked beans with lots of brown sugar and maple syrup. Mom gags.

And every spring, as much a harbinger of the season as tulips, is my father’s whining over Mom’s rendition of rhubarb pie. She loves it tart. He needs copious amounts of — you guessed it! — sugar.

So every year, whenever the first rhubarb treat is pulled from my oven, the little girl inside me travels back to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. Dad has just bitten into a piece of his mother’s rhubarb pie.

“Now THIS is a rhubarb pie,” he would always say, a satisfied smile taking up residence on his face.

Mom, the lady that she is, would smile also. And now I know why. She was plotting the pucker-level of her next rhubarb creation.

Here are a couple of recipes to help you enjoy the season. I’ll leave the sugar level adjustments up to you.

Rhubarb cream with strawberry puree

4cups of 1-inch rhubarb pieces (about 1 pound)

1 1/4cups granulated sugar

1/2cup water

1/2cup dry sherry

2 1/2teaspoons unflavored gelatin (1 packet, plus 1/2 teaspoon from a second packet)

2tablespoons warm water

1/2cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Strawberry puree (recipe follows)

Place rhubarb, 1 1/4 cups sugar, water and sherry in saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer gently until rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly and puree in blender.

In small cup, soften the gelatin in the warm water, letting it stand for about 5 minutes.

Return the rhubarb puree to the saucepan and gently heat (do not bring the mixture to a boil). Add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved; remove from heat.

Fill a bowl (larger than the saucepan) about 1/3 full with cold water, then add 15 to 25 ice cubes. Nest the saucepan of puree in the bowl and stir frequently until the puree cools and begins to thicken. Fold in the whipped cream and then spoon the mixture into 8 individual 1/2-cup lightly oiled molds, or a single, rectangular-shaped 1-quart mold. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

To serve: Spoon a portion of the strawberry puree on each of 8 individual dessert plates. Unmold the rhubarb cream. If using individual molds, simply place a serving in the center of a pool of strawberry puree. If using a large, rectangular mold, slice into 8 individual portions, then lay each portion in the center of a pool of strawberry puree. Serve.

Strawberry puree: In blender, puree 3 cups fresh strawberries (hulled and halved), with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and sugar to taste (start with 2 to 3 tablespoons, then after pureeing, taste and adjust). For a velvety-smooth puree, press the mixture through a sieve with a rubber spatula to remove the seeds.

Rhubarb upside-down cake

3tablespoons butter, melted

1/2cup brown sugar

2cups 1/2-inch sliced rhubarb

3to 4 tablespoons dry sherry

2/3cup flour

1teaspoon baking powder

1/8teaspoon salt

2egg yolks, room temperature

1teaspoon lemon juice

2/3cup granulated sugar

1/2teaspoon vanilla extract

3tablespoons hot water

2egg whites, room temperature

Whipped cream for garnish (optional)

Place the melted butter in a 10-inch pie plate. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pie pan. Add the rhubarb in an even layer and sprinkle with the sherry.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the egg yolks and lemon juice until thickened. Gradually add the sugar and the vanilla. Beat until thick and fluffy. Slowly add the hot water, one tablespoon at a time. Stir in the sifted dry ingredients. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter to lighten it.

Gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the cake batter over the rhubarb, covering it completely. Bake in a 325 degree oven about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Loosen the edges and invert onto a plate. Serve warm. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 6 to 8.

Makes 1 10-inch cake.

“Thyme and the River” by Sharon Van Loan and Patricia Lee with Mark Hoy

Contact Jan Roberts-Dominguez at janrd@proaxis.com