Archive for the ‘Rhubarb’ Category

Rhubarb Cobbler

Friday, June 1st, 2012

My little Rhubarb is well named. She wanted to nibble on the rhubarb leaves I brought into the house. I made her settle for toying with a "mouse" made of the stalk.

Susan Shauger, who sings in our church choir, brought a rhubarb cobbler to the church’s recent Meal without Plastic. It was a huge hit.

Of course, I asked for the recipe. Susan explained that she couldn’t find the exact one she used, which was from a vintage cookbook. But … it went something like this!

I have mentioned before on these pages that I adore rhubarb. I have a feeling I’ll be making Susan’s cobbler a lot in rhubarb seasons to come. It’s easy, and the tangy rhubarb flavor sings happily under the biscuit crust. I served it to friends last weekend with homemade vanilla ice cream.

We were VERY happy….

Susan’s Cobbler

Ingredients:

for the rhubarb base:

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, diced

for the cobbler crust:

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten

for the topping:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

Begin by making the base. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a smallish nonreactive pot. Stir in the rhubarb and lemon juice. Cover this mixture and let it sit for an hour or two until the rhubarb juices up.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

Uncover the rhubarb mixture and bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove the fruit from the heat and stir in the cinnamon.

Spread the rhubarb mixture in the prepared pan. Dot the top with butter.

To make the crust whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter, but don’t overdo the process. You should still have tiny pieces of butter in the mixture.

Whisk together the milk and egg. Add them to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Drop this mixture onto the rhubarb mixture, and spread it around to cover the fruit. Sprinkle brown sugar over all in little clumps.

Bake until lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 8.

 

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To Be Perfectly Frank: 100 Years of Frank Loesser

Monday, June 28th, 2010

 
Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of American composer and lyricist Frank Loesser.
 
Loesser was born on June 29, 1910, in New York City and died in 1969. He wrote or co-wrote some of our most singable songs—“On a Slow Boat to China,” “Heart and Soul,” “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” “Two Sleepy People,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” and about 700 others.
 
I’ve read a fair amount about Loesser, but I feel as though I don’t really know him. In books he comes across as contradictory. He rejected his family’s love of classical music yet longed to write an American opera. He was moody and quick to anger yet nurturing of his peers. He worked far too many hours yet loved parties. 

 
The man I can’t quite find in print comes across in his music as brilliant, playful, and intuitive. He knew how to structure a musical number so that it was easy to sing yet constantly surprising. And he knew how to reveal character through song.
 
His Guys and Dolls, to me the quintessential Broadway musical, illustrates this attention to character. Nathan Detroit’s passive yet sincere love for his longtime fiancée shines through “Sue Me.”
 
Sky Masterson shares his love of the city and his secret longing for connection to others in “My Time of Day.” Shy-no-more heroine Sarah lets her wild side peal in “If I Were a Bell.” And Miss Adelaide’s language and lifelong dilemma are defined in “Adelaide’s Lament.”
 
The lament exemplifies one of Loesser’s other strengths—his ability to translate colloquial conversation into music and lyrics. Miss Adelaide’s voice goes up (as mine certainly would!) whenever she gets particularly agitated contemplating her perpetually ALMOST married state: 

When they get on the train for NIAG’RA
She can hear CHURCH bells CHIME.
The COMPARTMENT is AIR CONDITIONED
And the MOOD sublime.
Then they GET OFF at SARATOGA
For the FOURTEENTH TIME!!!
A person can develop la grippe….
 

I look forward to learning more about Loesser tomorrow evening as I remain glued to the TV (well, actually, I’ll probably save some of the material for later viewing via TiVo) watching Turner Classic Movies’ salute to Loesser.
 
The lineup will include How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1967; star Robert Morse will co-host the TCM evening!), the 2006 documentary Heart & Soul: The Music of Frank Loesser, and several other films.
 
Although there are several gems to choose from I wish one of the films were Hollywood Canteen (1944), which features Bette Davis singing (!) the first Loesser song I ever performed, “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”
 
I couldn’t dream of emulating La Bette’s perfect diction. On the other hand, I can of course sing rings around her.
 
I’ll also learn about Loesser as I rehearse for—you guessed it—MY OWN LOESSER CENTENNIAL TRIBUTE WITH ALICE PARKER! 

This will take place on Saturday, August 21, at the Green Emporium in Colrain, Massachusetts. (See fabulous poster below.)

 
Alice and I are still planning the program so if readers have a favorite Loesser song they should suggest it now! 
 
Meanwhile, in tribute to tomorrow’s anniversary here is a special seasonal cocktail. It’s appropriate for two reasons. First, it was invented by my friend Michael Collins, the chef at the Green Emporium.
 
Second, I MUST have something to hold in my hand when Donald Freeman and I perform “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” another song that shows off Loesser’s way of turning conversation into song.
 
“Baby” is one of Loesser’s famous overlapping songs, in which characters (in this case “The Wolf” and “The Mouse”) sing complementary music and lyrics over each other.
 
According to Loesser’s daughter Susan, the composer and his first wife Lynn Garland Loesser performed this song privately many times. She quotes her mother as saying: 

We got invited to all the best parties for years on the basis of “Baby.” It was our ticket to caviar and truffles. Parties were built around our being the closing act.

(Time Life)

 
Eventually, Loesser sold the song to MGM to be sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban in the 1948 film Neptune’s Daughter.
 
Lynn Loesser was deeply saddened, but “Baby” won her husband his only Academy Award for best song. (As time went by he managed to scoop up a couple of Tonys and a Pulitzer as well.)
 
On August 21 as Don (doing his best Ricardo Montalban impression) finishes the line, “Beautiful, please don’t hurry,” I’ll pop in with,
 
“Well, maybe just a half a drink more………….” 

Let’s all raise our glasses to an American original!

 
 
Chef Michael Collins informs me that he was inspired to create this cocktail by my late neighbor Florette, who made a mean rhubarb tea.
 
I have tried it three ways—with rum (as described below) at his restaurant, with a little Grand Marnier at home when I couldn’t find rum, and in “virgin” form with a little pink lemonade for my young friend Audrey. I like it all three ways.
 
Ingredients:
 
for the base:
 
6 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups strawberries, cut in half
1/2 lime
1 tablespoon grenadine (optional–for color; I found with really fresh fruit I didn’t necessarily need it)
 
for the cocktail:
 
1 cup cocktail base (see above)
2 ounces white rum
lime juice as needed for rimming
sugar as needed for rimming
 
Instructions:
 
Bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir. When the sugar has dissolved add the fruit.
 
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the fruit breaks down. Toward the end of this process add the grenadine if you are using it.
 
Allow the mixture to cool. Remove the half lime (DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP!), and place the liquid in a blender in batches. Blend it; then strain it, first through a strainer (don’t try to push the fuzz down through the holes) and then through cheesecloth.
 
Place it in a jar and keep it refrigerated until it is needed.
 
To make a cocktail (or two): Place the rum in a cocktail shaker, and add ice. Pour in the cup of cocktail base. Shake.
 
Pour a little lime juice around the rim of 1 large or 2 small glass(es), and dip it/them in sugar so that the sugar coats the rim(s). Strain the drink into the glass(es). 

The drink recipe serves 1 to 2. The base makes about 6 cups.

Audrey drank this cocktail with pink lemonade instead of rum.

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For Rhubarb Lovers ONLY!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

 
I know I don’t usually publish posts two days in a row. I do realize, dear readers, that you have OTHER THINGS TO DO than read about my cooking.
 
I’m running out of time to celebrate everything I need to by July 4, however, so I’m afraid I’m back today with another rhubarb recipe.
 
Actually, I was a little hesitant to try this one. It involves … grilling.
 
I’m not generally a sexist, but there are certain things I’d just rather have men do. Change batteries on high smoke alarms (thank you, David!). Fasten the hose to the faucet outside so the water doesn’t gush out (thank you, Dennis!). GRILL.
 
Last night was hot, however, and no men were in sight. So I pulled out the grill and the charcoal and eventually got a fire going. My mother, Truffle, and I enjoyed a marinated flank steak.
 
And … grilled rhubarb!
 
Ann Brauer, a talented quilt artist in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, suggested I try tossing my favorite stalk on the grill.
 
I was skeptical. I have been known to lose pieces of chicken through the slots of the grill. I had a feeling I would end up with more rhubarb in the fire than on top of it.
 
Ann told me that she had grilled her rhubarb on foil, however, which made the project much more doable.
 
The grilling is a teensy bit tricky anyway. As I state in the recipe below, one wants the rhubarb to become slightly soft but not mushy. The photo at the bottom of this post actually depicts my first batch, which was slightly underdone; you can still see sugar adhering to the stalks. By the time we finished the final batch we were so hungry we ate the darn things without photographing them, however.
 
Warning: I know I’ve said that several of my rhubarb recipes will appeal to people who are not rhubarb fans.
 
This is NOT one of those recipes. If you are a lover of rhubarb, however, you will be enamored of the contrast between the light sugary crust and the deep, tart, rhubarby inside of the grilled stalks.
 
My mother and I were very, very happy. Truffle even ate a couple of pieces. (She’s a dog with excellent taste.)
 
Grilled Rhubarb
 
I apologize for the vague proportions in this recipe! My mother and I ate about 4 pieces of rhubarb each, but people with bigger appetites would probably eat many more. So I leave the decisions to you…….
 
Ingredients:
 
rhubarb to taste–washed, trimmed, and cut into 3-inch pieces
sugar as needed
 
Instructions:
 
Rinse the rhubarb pieces well and barely drain them. Leave a little water adhering to them so that the sugar will stick to them.
 
Pour sugar into a flat bowl, and roll the pieces of rhubarb in it.
 
Grill on foil over a not-too-hot grill, turning from time to time, until the sugar melts and the rhubarb starts to soften but doesn’t completely lose its texture. On my grill this took about 15 minutes, but I am NOT a reliable griller. Keep an eye on your rhubarb and pay no attention to me! 

Remove and serve.


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Barbacious Brownies

Monday, June 21st, 2010

 
I admit that I put rhubarb in a lot of things. This is one ‘barb recipe that would never have occurred to me, however.
 
I got the idea for these fudgy squares from Dennis Duncan of High Altitude Rhubarb, a bustling organic rhubarb farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Like me, Dennis is a major rhubarb fan.
 
Dennis was a little vague about how much rhubarb to add to the brownies, suggesting that I simply add unsweetened rhubarb to my favorite brownie recipe. So I just punted. I wasn’t sure whether the brownies were a success … until my neighbors started asking for more!
 
The result was a moist, DARK-chocolate brownie. Be prepared for a definite tart taste from the rhubarb. Your friends may not be a able to figure out what’s in the brownies, but if they’re fans of dark chocolate they’ll definitely be happy. 

By the way, High Altitude Rhubarb has a number of recipes available on it web site. My family is lobbying to try the rhubarb margaritas!

 
The Brownies
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1/2 cup unsweetened rhubarb puree, slightly warm
1 cup sugar
1/3 to 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (depending on how dark you want them; they’ll be dark either way!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9-inch-square pan. (Line it with buttered foil to omit any worries about sticking. I used a silicone pan so I didn’t have to.)
 
In a 2-quart saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the rhubarb, followed by the sugar. Heat, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
 
Stir in the cocoa and salt. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Stir in the flour, followed by the vanilla and the chocolate chips.
 
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. 

Bake the brownies for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven. Loosen the edges gently with a table knife; then allow the brownies to cool. Cut into tiny pieces. Makes between 20 and 40 brownies, depending on how big you cut them.


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Upside Down Once More

Friday, June 11th, 2010

 
I know, I know, I just posted a recipe for rhubarb upside-down cake!
 
Let me explain.
 
After various peregrinations I am finally home in Hawley, Massachusetts, contemplating the gorgeous greenery everywhere and the abundant rhubarb in my yard.
 
(It’s even more abundant in the yard of my generous next-door neighbor Dennis!)
 
Seeing its lush (if poisonous) green leaves and strong red stalks has inspired me to try yet another upside-down cake.
 
You may recall that the previous recipe from Sue Haas featured marshmallows. This ingredient surprised some of the commenters, particularly the eloquent Flaneur.
 
Here I dispense with the marshmallows and combine Sue’s recipe with my own for pineapple upside-down cake.
 
It’s amazing how different two rhubarb cakes can be! Of course, I like them both. (I seldom dislike cake, for my sins.)
 
Sue’s Michigan upside-down cake is not too sweet and not too goopy; the marshmallows hold it together and give it a slight vanilla flavor.
 
This version is definitely sweeter and richer. On the other hand, it’s also a little more rhubarby. The marshmallows tend to tame the rhubarb in the other recipe. 

Which should you make? BOTH, of course………

 
Hawley Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
 
Ingredients:
 
for the topping:
 
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 cups rhubarb (1/2-inch chunks)
 
for the cake:
 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
 
First make the topping (which goes on the bottom!).
 
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, until it melts and bubbles—3 to 4 minutes.
 
Transfer the brown-sugar mixture into a 9-inch-square cake pan. Spread it through the bottom of the pan. Arrange the rhubarb pieces on top as artistically as you can. (Mine weren’t very artistic.)
 
For the cake cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the baking powder and salt. Stir in the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla, and pour the batter over the rhubarb mixture.
 
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center (but not too far down; don’t hit the rhubarb!) comes out clean, about 40 minutes. If the cake is brown but not done before this happens, decrease the oven temperature and continue baking.
 
Allow the cake to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife, and invert the cake onto a serving plate held over the skillet. Turn upside-down. Remove pan.
 
Serve alone or with whipped cream. Serves 9. 

I should think you could absolutely bake this pan in a 10-inch iron skillet (heating the butter and brown sugar in it first, and then piling on the other ingredients). I couldn’t find my skillet, however, so I used a square pan and can only report on those results.


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