Is it okay to admit that I've never cooked with rhubarb before this summer? I know that it is strawberry's perfect partner and it symbolizes spring as much as fiddleheads. Perhaps I was just too timid to reach for those long pearly pink stalks at the produce section. Or perhaps they simply never look terribly fresh at my local grocery stores! Well, this summer, my CSA changed all that. For the last three weeks since the summer program began, I've been bringing home a beautiful bunch of rhubarb every Wednesday.
I didn't exactly dive off the deep end in week 1. Instead, I chose a safe and very easy option: compote! I turned to smitten kitchen for inspiration and Deb did not disappoint. Her adaptation of Thomas Keller's Strawberry Rhubarb Compote was fresh and tasted like spring. I added an empty vanilla pod too just because I love the heady fragrance of fruit poached in vanilla. It made me happy just to stare at those ruby little jars. If I'm a more avid foodblogger, I would probably start telling you how I enjoyed this lovely tangy sweet compote on all the cakes, parfaits, or french toasts that I made. Well, I would have a few years ago. But the truth is it is in the middle of race season and I'm carefully watching my diet. Just eating the compote spoonful by spoonful is very much a treat in itself. It was delicious all on its lonesome.
Last week rhubarb was not part of the regular share but strawberries were. It was the first batch of local strawberries from the Kawartha region and I couldn't be more excited. I got a bunch of rhubarb as extra just to keep the strawberries company! What I conveniently neglected was my weekend road trip to Pennsylvania. Days away from home not only meant less time to cook, it also meant meals eaten away from home. I couldn't possibly let the gorgeous strawberries and rhubarb languish in the fridge while I munch away on Philly Cheesesteak miles away. What to do?
I did what any sensible cooks would do. I woke up extra early on the day of my road trip and made a strawberry rhubarb cobbler for the road. The recipe came from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home To Yours. I adapted her rhubarb cherry cobbler to use strawberries and baked mine in two adorable oval baking dishes instead of one 8-inch square dish. Some people say you eat as much with your eyes as your mouth. My eyes and mouth agree. The whole wheat flour added a bit of nutty flavour to the dumplings which were perfect to soak up the juicy fruit filling. So what about that "for the road" part? Well, I drove all the way from Toronto to Philadephia with a dish of cobbler sitting comfortably on the passenger side. It was hostess gift for B's parents who generously hosted me over the weekend. I did mention the cobbler was juicy, right? Well, being the resourceful one, of course I came up with a cute and practical way to transport the dessert while I concentrated on traffic. The only distraction was the delicious smell!
After compote and cobbler, I was in need of inspirations when I came home with yet another bunch of rhubarb and a basket of strawberries this Wednesday. At this point, you may wonder about the conspicuous lack of pie on this post. Isn't it the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of strawberries and rhubarb? Bottom line is that I'm avoiding it. I'm pretty good at making pie dough but hate the clean up part. Besides, with such a juicy filling, chance of a soggy bottom is quite high. I looked and looked but all I saw was pie, crumble, cobbler, and compote. Surely there must be something more intriguing out there! Thankfully Gourmet magazine came to rescue. In their April 2007 issue, there was a recipe on Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake. The photo looks a bit dowdy but I was sold as soon as I read "pudding cake". I adore pudding cakes. I have such fond memories from my teenage years of making these one dish dessert that magically bake into cake with sauce.
I adapted the recipe to use much less sugar, with some ginger and cardomom thrown in. When fresh out of the oven, this pudding cake smelled fantastic. The spices are not in your face but just enough to add an intriguing element. Needless to say, this dessert is best enjoyed warm with something creamy. For a decadent breakfast, go for whole milk yogurt. Snack? A dollop of creme fraiche. Dessert? Vanilla ice-cream. Of course.
Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake
adapted from Gourmet magazine
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 30g granulated sugar
- 285g rhubarb, cut into 1.5cm pieces
- 142g strawberries, chopped to about the same size as the rhubarb
- 130g all-purpose flour
- 50g granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cardomom
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 125mL milk, room temperature
- 112g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish or use two dishes that add up to about the same volume as the square dish.
- In a small sauce pan, combine water, cornstarch, and 30g of sugar. Add rhubarb and cook over high heat for about 3 minutes. Stir often to ensure fruit is coated evenly with the liquid. Remove from heat when the liquid has thicken and rhubarb pieces are soft but not mushy. Toss with strawberries and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients including flour, 50g sugar, baking powder, salt, ground ginger, and ground cardomom.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir to combine egg, milk, butter, and vanilla extract.
- Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Gently stir until just combined. Do not overwork the batter.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of fruit filling. Divide the rest into baking dish(es). Top with the cake batter and finally the reserved fruit filling. No need to mix anymore! The cake will sort itself out during baking.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden and cake slightly pulls away from side of dish. Cool for 5 minutes and serve immediately. [shhh, I microwave mine to reheat since I couldn't "serve immediately". But that's okay too.]