Rhubarb has often been called the “pie plant.” It’s true that the unique, tart flavor of rhubarb has made it a favorite in pies, crisps & crumbles, but it’s also a fantastic ingredient in tangy sauces, chutneys & compotes that make a great accompaniment to savory dishes, including meats, fish & fowl.
Originally cultivated in Asia over 2,000 years ago for its medicinal qualities, it was not until the 18th century that rhubarb was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America. Because of its use in pies & desserts, most people mistakenly think of rhubarb as a fruit, but it’s actually a vegetable.
Rhubarb is good for you, too. High in Vitamins A and C, calcium and fiber, one cup of rhubarb contains only about 26 calories. Warning! Only the long petioles (stalks) of the rhubarb plant are edible. The large, fan-like leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid and are unsafe to eat in any amount.
Fresh rhubarb is easily cultivated in the home garden in cooler climates, and has also been successfully cultivated in the hothouse, which extends the availablility of this popular plant for several months. The main season for fresh rhubarb is late spring and early summer (May – June) when it’s peak of quality and the stalks are slender and crisp. The excitingly tangy flavor of fresh rhubarb is just too good to miss, so be sure to grab some while it’s in season.
Here are two original recipes that showcase the versatility of rhubarb: one features a tangy & savory sauce that pairs well with rich, succulent grilled salmon; the other, a rather non-traditional tart that teams rhubarb up with pears, apples and raspberries in one delightful dessert.
Grilled Salmon with Rhubarb-Hibiscus Sauce
The unique flavor of rhubarb has made it an old-time favorite ingredient in pies & desserts, but it’s also fantastic in tangy sauces to accompany savory dishes. In this recipe, the delightfully tart acidity of the rhubarb sauce provides a pleasant counterpoint to the richness of grilled wild salmon, but would be equally good with roast pork or duck. Cooked rhubarb tends to lose its pinkish hue when cooked, but the deep crimson color of the hibiscus tea adds both flavor and delightful color to the sauce.
Rinse the salmon steaks & pat dry. Place on a dish or platter and drizzle with the olive oil, turning to coat all pieces well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.
Prepare a charcoal grill. When coals are hot and covered with white ash, place the salmon on the grill. Cook for approximately 5 minutes. Carefully turn the steaks and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until desired level of doneness is almost reached. (Remember, the fish will continue to cook for another minute or two after being removed from the grill.)
Spoon a generous portion of the Rhubarb-Hibiscus Sauce (recipe follows) onto each plate. Place a salmon steak on each plate and serve immediately.
Wash & trim the rhubarb, if using fresh. Cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Peel and dice the shallot.
Melt the butter in a non-reactive skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and rhubarb and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Gently stir in the salt, honey and hibiscus tea and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook until the rhubarb is tender and the mixture has thickened.
Serve warm or cold with grilled fish and poultry or roasted pork and lamb.
Rhubarb, Pear, Apple and Raspberry Tart
This is not your typical, old-fashioned rhubarb pie.
Layers of firm, toothsome apples & pears, nuggets of tart, tender rhubarb and a scattering of ruby-red raspberries make this tart a summery wonderland of tastes & textures. The crisp, rich shortbread-like crust is so much better than anything you can buy pre-made, that it’s worth a little extra effort.
This tart stands on its own merits, but top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a dollop of soft whipped cream or a couple of spoonfuls of thick Greek yogurt, and you’ve got a dessert to remember.
- 1 ½ cups unbleached flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces
- 2-3 Tbsp ice water
- 3 firm pears – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 firm apple – peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 2-3 stalks fresh rhubarb – washed, trimmed and sliced into 1/2″ pieces
- 2/3 cup flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- generous pinch of salt
- 2 tsp finely grated orange peel
- 10 – 15 fresh whole raspberries
- One 10 – 11 inch tart pan with removable bottom
Place flour, salt and sugar in a food processor, and process briefly to mix. Add the butter and process until the mixture ranges in size from peas to coarse cornmeal. Slowly pour in the water, and using short pulses, incorporate it into the flour mixture. Add enough water so the dough holds together but does not form a ball.
Transfer pastry to a large piece of waxed paper, and press it out to form a flat round about 5 inches across. Wrap it tightly in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle, about 1/4″ thick. Carefully transfer it to the tart pan and press it into the bottom and sides. Trim any excess from the top. Lightly prick the bottom of the crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees until the crust is set.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 F.
Mix the sliced pears, apples, rhubarb, sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl, ensuring all are well coated.
Do not just dump the mixture into the crust! Instead, pick each piece out individually and arrange in the crust. Place concentric rings of pears, apples and rhubarb, arranging in layers until all fruit is gone. Don’t be afraid to layer the tart above the edge of the crust as the fruit will cook down during the baking process. Once the fruit is layered, sprinkle the grated orange peel over the top, then dot with raspberries for decoration.
Bake for 50-60 minutes on the center shelf until pears are cooked through. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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