COOK: Rhubarb Vinaigrette & Rhubarb Leather
I've pulled the last rhubarb stalks for the season. The remaining skinnier stalks with their big glossy leaves will stay with my perennial rhubarb plants to feed them over the rest of the growing season. Like many of you, I usually make a Rhubarb-Strawberry pie or buckle with this vegetable and then diced the remaining stalks for a winter's stay in the freezer. Sometimes I find it deep in the freezer and sometimes I didn't until the following spring. This year I've been playing around with different recipes that use fresh rhubarb and of course, now I need more rhubarb plants. The slippery slope of a kitchen gardener...
Rhubarb Vinaigrette Dressing*
An abundance of greens and lettuces in the garden right now means lots of salads and stir-fried greens and this tangy vinaigrette is perfect for both. For cooked greens, I splash a bit of vinaigrette on the greens after cooking and just before serving. It adds a unique flavor and brightens up cooked greens. For salads, add some sliced strawberries and chopped walnuts to your lettuce and toss with this dressing.
¼ cup honey (use local raw honey; check your farmer's market )
½ cup water
4 stalks rhubarb (about 2 loosely packed cups), cut into thin slices
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Zest of one lemon
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Several pinches of coarse sea salt and pepper
Heat water and honey over medium heat. When the mixture begins to boil, add rhubarb and boil five minutes more, stirring often. Stir in vinegar and lemon zest, and cook five to 10 more minutes, until dressing is reduced by about half. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. Strain out rhubarb (or leave in if you like some texture in your dressing). Whisk the olive oil into the dressing or blend in blender to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or cold over fresh salad greens. Store in fridge. Yields about 2 cups.
* I don't remember where I first found this recipe but I have seen several similar recipes online.
I regularly made fruit leather when my son was growing up. And then I stopped. Why? Is fruit leather a kid thing?
Of course not! This year I am planning my first multi-day backpack with my now adult son, and I have been thinking about easy-to-eat and easy-to-cook foods that are also lightweight. Fruit leathers are perfect for hiking and camping adventures. You'll need a dehydrator with a plastic leather sheet or tray. If you don't have one, you can use a silicon baking sheet placed on the dehydrator tray. This recipe has been adapted from Mary T. Bell's cookbook, Food Drying with An Attitude. How can you resist a book with that title?
3 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces (I don't see any reason why you can't use frozen rhubarb pieces, but I have not tried it yet)
3 cups boiling water
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar
3-6 diced strawberries
1 tablespoon strawberry gelatin
Optional: 1/8 teaspoon ginger (or cinnamon, anise star or cloves)
Toppings: I used ground hemp hearts and pumpkin seeds to top the leather because I want the sustaining protein calories while I am hiking. You can add any nuts (roughly ground), small pieces of dried fruits, cacao nibs, poppy/sesame seeds, etc.
In a stainless steel pot, add rhubarb and the boiling water to cover. Allow to sit for at least one hour, blanching until the color changes (this also helps to eliminate some of the vegetable's natural acidity - yes, rhubarb is a vegetable). In addition, it softens the rhubarb which is critical for pureeing. I let my first batch sit overnight which was perfect.
Strain the rhubarb (keep the water) and place 1 cup at at time in food processor or blender, adding a bit of water to get it thoroughly blended. Add strawberries, gelatin and spices and puree until smooth. Spread the mixture on to an oiled leather sheet (I use melted coconut oil). Don't skip the oil - it makes removal of the dried leather much easier. Sprinkle toppings over the puree. Dry at 110-135 degrees. The leather is done when it can peel off easily without any wet or sticky spots. Dehydrating is affected by both temperature and humidity so the amount of time differs on conditions.
Cut leather into strips and roll up. Store rolls in a flat container. Savor these on sunny day hiking on your favorite trail.
Author: Sue Kusch
Sue Kusch, a former community college instructor and academic advisor, incorporates her experiential wisdom, expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to her BA in Social Sciences and Masters in Education, she completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. She has studied medicinal and nutritional uses of herbs including studies at Herbmentor.com and East West School of Planetary Herbology since 1997. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor of her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. An avid reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at www.plantsnpeople.com.