Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Rhubarb takes centre stage

Cathi Litzenberger offers some tasty rhubarb recipes — but is looking to readers to provide her with some rhubarb for her kitchen

Rhubarb is in full season and is one of the most versatile vegetables of the early spring.

It is mostly grown  for its fleshy stalks, technically known as petioles. The use of rhubarb as food was first recorded in 17th-century England when sugar became affordable to common people, and reached a peak between the 20th century’s two world wars.

Commonly, it is stewed with sugar or used in pies and desserts, but it can also be put into savoury dishes or pickled. Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie. In traditional Chinese medicine, rhubarb roots have been used as a laxative for several millennia, and it appears in medieval Arabic and European prescriptions. It was one of the first Chinese medicines to be imported to the West from China. And if you’re looking for a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks, rhubarb root will produce just that.

My favourite rhubarb recipes include the coffee cakes below and a custard rhubarb pie which has been printed here numerous times. My problem with rhubarb is that I don’t have any growing in my garden — anyone willing to share?

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

1⁄2 cup butter or 1⁄2 cup margarine

1-1⁄2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

Topping:

1⁄2 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.

Mix flour and baking soda together and fold into batter. Stir in rhubarb. Turn into greased 9×13-inch pan.

Topping: Mix all ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle over top. Bake 30-40 minutes until done.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cream Dessert

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

Topping:

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

5 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped, divided

Additional brown sugar, optional

In small bowl, combine flour, pecans, butter and sugar. Press into greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Bake at 350 F for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

In large saucepan, combine brown sugar and cornstarch. Stir in rhubarb until combined.

Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat; cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; cool. Stir in strawberries.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fold in 1 cup whipped cream. Spread over crust; top with rhubarb mixture. Spread with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate 3-4 hours before serving.  Garnish with additional brown sugar if desired. Yield: 12 servings.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and on Sunday per month.

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