I was torn between choosing asparagus or rhubarb for May’s special and finally decided to offer recipes from both since they are in abundance right now.
Rhubarb lends itself to everything from drinks, chutneys, baking of all sorts, sauces, ice creams and an array of other desserts far too many to mention. And you just can’t beat the flavour and nutrition of fresh locally grown asparagus.
Today’s recipes include a rosy rhubarb syrup, a great way to enjoy fresh rhubarb in the spring, but also delicious when made with frozen rhubarb year-round. Use the syrup as the base for fancy drinks, or mix with club soda or your favourite sparkling water for a refreshing mocktail. The rhubarb crisp is lovely with a hint of ginger, a custard filling that is soft and creamy plus it has a nice crunch to the topping. I’m always looking for easy breakfast recipes for special occasions or just for a change and the eggs benedict with asparagus is sure to become a family favourite. The last recipe is a five-ingredient asparagus pasta that’s easy to make and full of absolutely amazing flavour!
4 cups sliced fresh or thawed frozen rhubarb
1 cup granulated sugar
1 strip lemon rind
In saucepan over medium-high heat, bring rhubarb, sugar, 1 cup water and lemon rind to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb breaks down and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
Strain into bowl, pressing solids gently to extract liquid; discard solids. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 5 days. Or can be canned or frozen for future use.
Ginger-Orange Rhubarb Crisp
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
Zest from 1 orange
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
8 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup salted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups rolled oats
Move an oven rack to the centre of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.
Mix the white sugar, 3 tablespoons of flour, salt, eggs, orange zest and ginger together in a bowl until well-combined; stir in the rhubarb. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
Thoroughly combine 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon by pulsing in food processor or blender. Stir in oatmeal; crumble the oatmeal mixture over the rhubarb. Gently pat topping down to make a crust.
Bake on the centre rack of preheated oven until the topping is lightly golden, the rhubarb has fallen apart, and the juices are very thick and bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes. Check frequently after 30 minutes to see if bubbles are thick.
Eggs Benedict with Asparagus
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 bunch of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 English muffins, cut in half (optional)
Hollandaise sauce (pkg., pre-prepared or from scratch)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
Place bacon and asparagus on a fully rimmed baking sheet (edges on all four sides) that has been topped with a cooling rack. Drizzle olive oil over asparagus. Bake until asparagus is tender-crisp (about 10 minutes, but check it). Leave bacon until it is cooked through and browned, about 15 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons of water to each indentation of the muffin tin. Crack an egg into each indentation, taking care not to break the yolk of the egg. Place in the oven along with the bacon for the last 9-10 minutes of cooking.
Place English muffins on another baking sheet. Spread with butter and place in oven to heat at the same time as adding eggs.
As your bacon, eggs and muffins are baking, prepare your hollandaise sauce. Pour into a serving container.
Note: Eggs should finish with firm whites and soft yolks.
To assemble Eggs Benedict, place English muffins on each plate, top with some asparagus and one slice of bacon. Using a silicon spatula, gently remove a poached egg from the muffin tin, draining on a thick kitchen towel before placing on top of the bacon. Drizzle with hollandaise sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. Vegetarians can omit the bacon!
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) uncooked pasta (I used linguine)
1/2 lb. (about 8 strips) uncooked bacon, diced
1/2 lb. (8 oz.) fresh asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine (or you can use chicken stock if you’d like)
1/2 cup grated or flaked Parmesan cheese
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water al dente according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, add bacon to a medium sauté pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add asparagus to the pan and sauté in the bacon grease for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked.
Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon, and set aside with the bacon. Slowly add the white wine to the pan, and scape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to deglaze the pan and pick up all of those yummy brown bits. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the wine has reduced by about half.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it. Then add the pasta, asparagus, bacon and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese to the pan, and toss until combined. Sprinkle pasta with the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
If the pasta seems too dry, add in 1/4 cup of the pasta water after adding in the asparagus and bacon and toss to combine.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.