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Tasty Morsels: Rhubarb is delicious as sweet dessert or savory sauce

By: Susie Iventosch
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When I was very young, our neighbor in Michigan had a big, tempting rhubarb plant just on the other side of the fence. It was almost within reach and one day, feeling rather brave, I slithered partway under the fence and broke off a stalk. Too young to know better, (sand was pretty tempting to me in those days, too), I indulged in a big, tangy bite of the pretty red stalk. I’ve no idea why I didn’t eat the leaves, but it’s a good thing, since too much of the leaf can be toxic. (Information on toxicity in rhubarb can be found at www.rhubarbinfo. com/ rhubarb-poison.html) The taste was rather tart, but also delicious and refreshing, and thanks to the unwitting generosity of our neighbor, I’ve been a fan ever since. Rhubarb, referred to as an “uncommon” vegetable in the New Western Garden Book, is available from April through September, but grows best in regions with cool climates. According to Jan Thompson, owner of Newcastle Produce, the local Auburn climate is really too warm to grow rhubarb with the nice red color, so she usually imports it from Oregon. “Locally-grown rhubarb is a greenish color,” she said. “We’ve carried it from local growers in the past, but people seem to prefer the red variety.” Rhubarb grown above Colfax may be somewhat redder in color and, according to Connie Heilaman of Chicago Park, her rhubarb is reddish, but not as red as that found in some of the local markets. Because rhubarb is so tangy and strawberries are so sweet, they combine for a perfectly balanced dessert. The combination makes a delicious cobbler, pie or crisp, and when sautéed with shallots, rhubarb makes a delicious sauce to accompany fish or chicken — no lemon needed! n Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp Filling 2 cups rhubarb (approximately 4 stalks), strings removed, and coarsely chopped 2 cups strawberries, stems removed, and cut into quarters, or sliced ¾ cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon cardamom ¼ cup flour In a large bowl mix fruit and add dries. Gently toss until combined. Dump fruit mixture into the bottom of a greased, or sprayed, 8x8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle topping (recipe below) evenly over fruit. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until fruit is tender and topping is golden brown. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and serve warm with vanilla yogurt or ice cream. Topping 2/3 cup flour 1/3 cup brown sugar 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon cinnamon Place all ingredients in a bowl and work with fingertips until well-integrated and crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over berry-rhubarb mixture. n Rhubarb-shallot white wine cream sauce (Makes 1 cup to serve over fish or chicken) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb (strings removed before slicing) 2 large, or 3 medium shallots, finely diced 1 cup dry white wine 1 cup chicken broth ¼ cup cream (can use non-fat cream) White pepper and salt to taste In saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add shallots and rhubarb and sauté until just golden-brown. Add white wine and continue to cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half. Add chicken broth and repeat the process. Add cream, stir and heat through. Remove from heat and serve over grilled fish or chicken and rice. This is especially nice on halibut, sword fish or salmon and there’s no need for lemon, as the rhubarb offers the touch of tang that tastes so good with fish. Susie can be reached at suziven@hughes.net