My husband and I recently stopped at the small shop near our house that sources seasonal produce from local farms. We were there for the asparagus, but of course a few others items made their way into our bag…
We’re planning to make-ahead scallion pancakes for quick weekday breakfasts (fry an egg on one side and treat it like an asian omelette… I’ll share a full recipe at some point).
The arugula was turned into a hearty salad with lemon juice, olive oil, shredded carrots, and parmesan cheese, and then sandwiched between pizza slices to make a focaccia-like sandwich.
The asparagus is a throwback to an amazing dinner that we recently shared with family in Seattle; at this very moment Jimmy is prepping some fresh extruded pasta that I’ll be pairing with a portobello- cream sauce and King Salmon.
I was particularly delighted to come upon rhubarb- an enormous plant that had grown in our backyard in Vermont, but which I had never attempted to cook myself. I remember being told that rhubarb leaves are poisonous (which wikipedia confirms), so I was careful to keep my distance from them when playing in the yard as a child!
A few facts from The Rhubarb Compendium:
- Rhubarb originated in China (North & Northwestern Provinces) and Tibet.
- It was only recently cultivated for culinary purposes in U.S. & England (18th century).
- Nutrition: high in vitamin C & dietary fiber.
- Close relative of garden sorrel (a perennial herb… looks like lettuce).
If you’ve ever encountered rhubarb before, there’s a very good chance that it was in the form of a strawberry-rhubarb pie. What else can be done with these ruby-red stalks that doesn’t involve just dousing them in sugar? I opted to make a compote that combined rhubarb with other berries to make a topping for yogurt (which I eat daily with granola anyways) inspired by a recipe on SAVEUR.
My creation did not stray far from the strawberry-rhubarb motif, but I did use maple syrup instead of standard sugar. This is a substitution that I often make in my cooking because this golden goo has a few health benefits (check out this Gastropod episode on maple syrup). I also have a seemingly-endless supply coming from my parents who still live in Vermont next door to a family of maple-producers.
It’s not berry season yet here, so I feel no shame using the frozen stuff. Kirkland Signature (Costco) berries maintain their integrity when thawed, so they get thumbs up from us for quality! But, if it makes you feel better, here are some pictures of us picking strawberries earlier this year in Taiwan, photos courtesy of Hannah Choi:
- I did not have orange juice on hand (like the original recipe calls for) but I did have grapefruit juice, which turned out great!
- Since I was working with frozen berries instead of fresh, I overcompensated with a longer cooking time. The rhubarb were a little mushier than I had hoped for, so you should taste-test pieces as things progress to achieve your desired texture!
Recipe: Strawberry-Rhubarb-Maple Compote Inspired by SAVEUR
2 lb. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 lb. strawberries cut into 1/2″ pieces
6 oz. frozen mixed berries
3⁄4 cup maple syrup (the darker the grade, the better)
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1 stick cinnamon (or 3/4 tsp ground)
1 star anise
1 split vanilla bean or 1 tsp extract
1/2 cup of orange or grapefruit juice
Thaw frozen berries in a pot over medium heat, 3 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and cook until rhubarb is soft, about 10 minutes.
Pour into a fine strainer set over a bowl, and transfer fruit and spices to a bowl.
Return juices to pot, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce to a simmer, and cook until liquid is thickened and reduced by 2⁄3 (about 30 minutes) stirring often to prevent burning near the end.
Suggestions for Serving
Pair with granola and greek yogurt.
Skip the final thickening step and use the liquid to gel (plump up) chia seeds.
Make strawberry shortcake- replacing the plain strawberries with this mixture.