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Rhubarb a tart, versatile vegetable

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Dear Roberta: I recently purchased a house that has a large rhubarb patch and wonder if you have any recipes in your arsenal that you would share?

Wow, you lucky gal! The price of rhubarb has gone sky high the last several years at the market so enjoy your crop.



Rhubarb basics

Rhubarb is often dubbed the “pie plant,” and the stalks, soft and delectable when baked, do make a divine pie filling. But pie is by no means the only way to experience rhubarb.




This tart vegetable is as delicious in a savory dish as it is in a sweet one.

In season, rhubarb can be found from late winter to early spring with a peak season from April to June.

Look for thin, red, crisp stalks, which have the best texture. If stalks are floppy, it indicates they were picked too long ago.

Store it by wrapping in plastic and refrigerate for up to one week.

Rhubarb Berry Crumble

1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, leaves discarded

2 cups raspberries, or sliced strawberries, or a combination

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons instant tapioca

1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Pinch of salt

Crumble Topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together rhubarb, berries, sugar, tapioca, orange zest, orange juice, and salt in a bowl. Let stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Divide rhubarb mixture among 6 small ceramic baking dishes (1 cup capacity and 5 1/2 inches in diameter). Transfer baking dishes to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with topping, dividing evenly.

Bake until topping turns golden and juices are bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on sheet on a wire rack 30 minutes.

Crumble

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, for Rhubarb-Berry Crumbles (optional)

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

Put butter and brown sugar, and orange zest if desired, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until creamy. Stir in flour and salt. Work mixture through fingers until it forms coarse crumbs ranging in size from peas to gum balls.

Pork chops with Rhubarb Cherry Sauce

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

8 to 10 ounces rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (2 cups)

3 tablespoons sugar

Pinch of ground nutmeg

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 pork loin chops, (each 1/2 inch thick and 6 to 8 ounces)

In a small bowl, combine cherries with vinegar and 1/4 cup hot water; let stand 10 minutes to soften.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-low heat. Add onion; cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

To the saucepan, add cherry mixture, rhubarb, and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until rhubarb has softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in nutmeg; season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Generously season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Cook pork (in two batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the pan) until browned and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve topped with warm sauce

Roberta DesBouillons is the in-house chef at Tess’ Kitchen Store in Grass Valley. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and used to own/operate Apron Strings Cooking School in San Francisco. Email questions to roberta.tesskitchen@gmail.com.


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