Friday, April 8, 2016

Why It's So Easy To Love Rhubarb

My parents and grandparents ate according to the seasons, a practice I fully endorse and one I do my best to sustain. But adhering to this can be challenging because restaurants and grocery stores make it ridiculously simple to sway away from eating seasonal foods by serving and providing fruits that are available year round. In fact produce departments in most grocery stores look the same day after day, month after month. A few foods have managed to stay out of the year round mainstream because consumers haven’t demanded them. Rhubarb falls into this category and is one of the few vegetables that grocery stores don’t sell 12 months of the year.

Rhubarb makes a brief debut in spring. This vegetable typically shows up in desserts because to make rhubarb palatable it needs the help of a sweetener. Aficionados of rhubarb make pies, cobblers, cakes, slumps, puddings, jams and chutneys. 

Rhubarb looks like a large pinkish-red version of the pale green celery stalk, except it stands about a foot and a half long. Choose firm, crisp, plump stalks. Kept in the refrigerator in a vegetable bag, rhubarb will last for about a week. Both raw and cooked rhubarb freeze with great results. To prepare, remove poisonous leaves, wash and trim both ends of the stalks, prepare according to recipe directions. Rhubarb is high in fiber and very low in calories, about 20 calories per cup.

I had to hide this cake from my husband after he went for a third helping. It is extraordinarily moist and if I hadn’t been the person assembling the ingredients, I would never guess rhubarb was one of the primary ingredients.

Rhubarb Cake with Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Walnut Topping

2 cups all-purpose white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups (about ½ pound) rhubarb, finely diced
½ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1½ teaspoons cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. 
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. 
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter with white and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until slightly fluffy. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk, beat until well combined. Fold in rhubarb. 
  5. Transfer batter to baking pan, spreading evenly. 
  6. In a small bowl, toss walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. Distribute topping evenly over cake and bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.
Yield: About 15 servings