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Friday, May 14, 2010

Second Harvest: Rhubarb

My father's girlfriend, Karen, is what he calls "an old fashioned cook". What I love is her enthusiasm. She loves cooking, and passing on what she knows. She not a gardener - but she knows a rhubarb plant from a distance, and shows no mercy in harvesting it!

My dad and Karen came for a visit just in time for Karen to spy my rhubarb ready for harvest. So we ravished the plant, and I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie using a recipe from my newest favorite cookbook, Dishing Up Maryland by Lucie Snodgrass, just published this year. Added fresh whipped cream from South Mountain Creamery and WOW, what a treat. It was great!

The one caveat: I didn't make the pie crust from scratch. I've gotten lazy in recent years, nearly always using Pillsubry's pre-made refrigerated crusts. They are so easy!! But homemade is not that hard, either.

Karen had the solution. Her mother used to come to her house for a visit, and would ask her what she could do to help. Karen often asked for pie crusts. So now she's passing it on another generation - she shared her pie crust recipe, and we made enough for 6 crusts, freezing them as disks. Having multiple homemade crusts on hand in the freezer is a wonderful convenience- and rolling them takes very little time, so it is almost as easy as the store-bought variety. Thanks, Karen!!

She also makes a rhubarb pie, but without strawberries. She was polite about my pie, but she claims hers is wonderful. So I am waiting for a few more stalks to appear so I can reap another harvest to put her pie to the test: is it better? I have a feeling it just may be...

My friend Ellen suggests Rhubarb Relish, which she made a few years ago. I have a ton of rhubarb relish recipes, so this weekend I am going to try one or two, or more likely, invent my own. I love the idea of the relish with a rich meat like beef or buffalo, or with pork. It also makes weeknight cooking so much easier if I can just throw meat on the grill knowing that the flavor boost is going to come from a relish or homemade roasted tomato catsup. Easy without being boring.

Rhubarb is a great garden addition because it's huge (poisonous) leaves are so dramatic. I like adding more perennials to the veggie garden, so I may need to add a few more rhubarb. It is truly carefree - pests do not seem to bother it, and it doesn't mind a bit of drought. And the stalks are sooo tasty - good thing I have lots of pie crusts ready!

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