Kitchen Wit and Wisdom: ‘Stalk’ up on rhubarb season

Hurray for rhubarb season! I finally got to work outside this past week and to my delight found my rhubarb almost ready to be cut and used.

This first vegetable of the season, well, OK, “fruit” to most of us,  is a member of the sorrel family, which actually makes it a vegetable.

Rhubarb originated from Asia some 2,000 years ago and was used by the Chinese  primarily for medicinal purposes. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America.

Rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber among many other properties. The leaves are poisonous due to their high oxalic acid content and many people question whether or not they can be added to their compost pile. The answer is yes, they can be composted safely as the acid is quickly broken down, diluted, and pH balanced resulting in a compost that is almost identical to that without rhubarb leaves.

Today I have two rhubarb dessert recipes you may like to try.

Rhubarb Bavarian:

Base:

1 cup sifted flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup softened butter or margarine

Topping:

4 cups diced rhubarb

1/4 cup water

1-1/4 cup sugar

2 envelopes unflavoured gelatin

1/3 cup cold water

Red food colouring (optional)

1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped or whipped topping of choice

Base: Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Spread evenly in bottom of a greased 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 F. until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Cool.

Topping: Combine rhubarb, 1/4 cup water, and sugar in a saucepan and simmer on medium-low until rhubarb is tender, stirring occasionally. Soak gelatin in 1/3 cup cold water. Add hot rhubarb. Stir until dissolved. Add food colouring if using. Chill until partially set, then fold in whipped cream. Turn onto base and chill until firm, about 3 hours. Serves 9.

Go Anywhere Rhubarb Squares

Base:

1 cup flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup butter

Filling:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups finely chopped fresh rhubarb (can use frozen too)

For the base, combine flour and powdered sugar; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Press into the bottom of a greased 11-inch X 7-inch X 2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 F. for 12 minutes. For filling, combine first 4 ingredients. Stir in rhubarb; pour over warm crust. Bake at 350 F. for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm if desired. Store in refrigerator.

–– Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s cooking columnist.