Monday, June 7, 2010

It's a wonderful day in the neighbourhood


Here's proof that I was not crazy when I suggested we throw strawberries onto the barbe... Granted, the recipe calls for an oven grill (also known as the broiler in North America), but if the thought of turning on the oven to its highest setting has you breaking out into a sweat and itchy rash all over, I say try tweaking it for the outdoor grill. The recipe is from Jamie Oliver, but Tara writes so eloquently about it that I really think it will be worth your while to take the detour through her post.


Anyway, I still haven't figured out how to fit a barbecue on my tiny balcony, so I will not be manufacturing a strawberry baking dish out of aluminum foil for the grill. Instead, I am tweaking the dish to accommodate an abundant harvest of rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that likes to confuse its fans: what to do with this atrociously tart stem that loves being transformed into dessert, besides compote and crumble? One can only consume so much stewed rhubarb before one writes it off for the rest of the year.  Yet rhubarb season in most of North America is so incredibly long, that one feels compelled to work it into the menu every now and then. You can try Lara Ferroni's rhubarb bars (or Rhubars, as she likes to call them!); you can make a couple jars of strawberry-rhubarb jam to savour over the winter months, or you can roast a pan-full of rhubarb for tonight's dessert, and worry about the rest of the season later.

To peel or not to peel rhubarb, that is the question. (Although my boyfriend would frown upon me if he knew I recommend NOT peeling rhubarb). Admittedly, the peel can be extremely stringy, especially later in the season, but it is also where all of rhubarb's pretty pink pigments are found. So it's all up to you. The peel contributes very little to the flavour of rhubarb, so the appeel (sorry, couldn't help the pun!) is strictly aesthetic.

Roasted Rhubarb
Makes a full 9"(22cm)  square pan

1 bunch (about 10 stems) rhubarb
sugar to taste
1 pod vanilla
around 2-3 tablespoon butter

Trim leaves and ends from rhubarb, and wash well. Peel the stems, if you want.
Chop roughly into 2cm (1") chunks.
In a large mixing bowl, combine rhubarb and enough sugar to coat each chunk generously with sugar crystals.
Split vanilla pod lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the back of your knife.
Mix seeds and pods with rhubarb.
Pour into baking dish, scraping out every last bit of sugar and juice from mixing bowl.
Leave to rest for about 15 minutes, so that the rhubarb has time to render some juice and the sugar to dissolve.
Meanwhile, heat oven to 190'C/ 375'F.
Place baking dish in the oven, and leave to roast for 15 minutes.
Give rhubarb a stir, and roast for another 5 minutes.

Roasted rhubarb will be pretty much like stewed, the only notable difference being that roasted rhubarb will keep its shape. Serve as is, on top of half a shortcake biscuit, with a dollop of whipped cream. Or save for the recipe that follows.


Strawberries and rhubarb seem like a match made in heaven, and it cannot be a coincidence that their seasons begin more or less at the same time. It also happens to be the season for edible spring flowers that go beautifully with either in a dessert.


Unfortunately, most edible flowers are rather difficult to find, unless you grow them yourself or are a forager. You might have some luck at the farmers' market: lavender and thyme are currently flowering, and you can most likely get your hands on some if you visit a fresh herb stand.

Another flower currently in full season, and very much a symbol of spring in most temperate regions of the northern hemisphere is the elderflower. You may have noticed this shrub along naturalized highways, in woodlands and in urban greenbelts.

Dried elderflowers are available at some natural food stores, in the bulk tea section. However, dried elder loses much of its white blossom notes, concentrating mostly aromas of vanilla and straw.

Unless you are aware of a stand of elderflowers you can poach, your best bet to enjoy this flower will be in a cordial. Bottlegreen is probably the UK's biggest producer of elderflower cordial: they are available online and through some fine foods stores throughout North America. However, if you live close to an IKEA, you can also find a Swedish version of the floral drink base. It isn't as thick as a cordial, nor as sweet, but it is a good stand-in.

There are multiple uses for cordial, but I will broach them at another time... Back to our strawberries. What follows is my version of Jamie Oliver's recipe. It's not the most original tweak, but it shows how easy it can be to modify a recipe to suit what one happens to have at hand.

Warm Strawberries and Rhubarb
Makes a 9" square pan-full, enough to feed 6 or more

1 recipe roasted rhubarb
1 small basket (about 3 punnets) strawberries
elderflower cordial (optional) or sugar
elderflowers, optional
6 shortbread cookies

Turn oven grill on to high.
Wash and hull strawberries.
Line up strawberries atop the roasted rhubarb, making sure that the cut ends lie flat on the rhubarb.
Sprinkle the strawberries with a generous quantity of elderflower cordial, if using, or some sugar.
Place in the oven, and leave to broil for about 5 minutes, until some of the strawberries start to bubble or caramelize.
Crush the shortbread cookies into medium to small crumbs. Divide amongst 6 serving bowls.
Spoon out the warm strawberries and rhubarb.
Sprinkle with elderflowers, if you have.

Although vanilla ice cream would be the most obvious garnish for this delectable dessert, plain Mediterranean yoghurt (sweetened with more cordial or a floral honey) also makes for a decadent garnish.

 



Bon app'!



2 comments:

  1. Lovely photos Dahlia! I'm hoping there are still some strawberries left when we come back at the end of June.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure there will loads of strawberries left for some serious face-stuffing! I can't wait to see you!

    ReplyDelete

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