Tuesday, May 31, 2011

rhubarb custard pie

Being rhubarb season means that I'm always on the hunt for new recipes to try. I know we have our favorites, but we don't want to "get sick of it", so to speak. This weekend I made a rhubarb custard pie - making a variation on a recipe I found in Saveur and using my old stand by flaky crust recipe. It is SO GOOD. Mild, tangy, not too sweet, not too tart, crispy crust with soft custard and bits of rhubarb. Just great. I have a feeling I'll be making this a few more times this season!

::Rhubarb Custard Filling::

2 cups thinly chopped fresh rhubarb
1 1/4 cups turbinado sugar
seeds from 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean (or 1 tsp good vanilla extract)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp cream
Make your pastry crust (see below).

Toss the chopped rhubarb into bowl with 1 cup of the sugar. Let it sit until the rhubarb releases its juices - an hour or so will be about right. Strain the rhubarb - save the juice/liquid too.

For the custard beat the eggs with the cream and 1/4 cup remaining sugar, stir in the vanilla and dried spices.

Stir in the rhubarb juice that you strained.

Sprinkle the rhubarb slices into the pie crust, pour over the custard mixture.

Bake at 350ºF until it is set but not overcooked - about 30-40 minutes. Let cool & slice!

::Pâte Brisée - AKA flaky pie crust::

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tsp sugar (for sweet dish, omit for savory like quiche)
4 oz. COLD unsalted butter

3 to 6 tsp of ice water
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter (or pulse in food processor) until it resembles course meal.

Add the ice water a bit at a time, mixing as you go until the mixture just starts to come together.

Gently roll into a ball (don't knead).

Wrap it up, flatten into 1" thick disc and put into the fridge for 20+ minutes to chill.
Roll the dough out gently and then press into your lightly buttered pie plate, crimping edges.

This does not need to be pre-baked, just add your filling and bake. This works for any recipe that needs a flaky crust. Makes one 9" pie crust.


This is really good with some freshly whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream. YUM.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

rhubarb syrup :: rhubarb soda

It is that time of year...rhubarb time! I try to make a bit of everything with it so that it can last us through the year. Frozen, jam, compote, chutney, syrup...combined with some of the decadent freshness that is the seasonal treat like rhubarb ice cream or granita or baked honey glazed rhubarb. The house has the constant rhubarb and honey smell this time of year and it is a good thing.

We have a lot of cold and wet this week (frost tomorrow night?) so it is for home and kitchen puttering. Yesterday I made one of my favorite things. Rhubarb syrup, this year with ginger and cardamom. SO GOOD.

::Rhubarb Ginger Syrup::

8 C chopped rhubarb
1.5 cups honey
sliced fresh ginger (2" knob)
2 cardamom pods, cracked - seeds only into pan (optional, but it is good!)
1/2 vanilla pod scraped (or 1 tsp good vanilla extract)
2 cups water
(If you want it to look pink, add a slice of fresh beet)

Combine everything in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook gently until the fruit is soft and the liquid has thickened slightly, about 30-40 minutes.

Run the mixture through a fine strainer (or cheesecloth) that has been placed over a large bowl. Strain until most of the liquid is in the bowl. Give a little press on the solids with a spoon to extract more syrup.

Pour the syrup into a clean bottle, cap or cork the bottle and refrigerate. It will store for quite a long time in the fridge.

The solids make a nice rough jam or are fantastic added to baked goodies (just remove ginger slices), so if you want you can put them in a clean jar and keep them in your refrigerator and use as needed! I'm making muffins this morning with it.

What to do with it? I love using it to make rhubarb soda. Or add a little to lemonade (my boys love this) or iced tea. Drizzle over vanilla ice cream. Or ... vodka and a sprig of basil would be good!

Of course the first thing we did with the syrup was make rhubarb soda. We don't drink store bought carbonated beverages/sodas, but having a rhubarb ginger soda is a real treat - and sweetened with only honey.

::Rhubarb Soda::

Syrup (for a pint canning jar glass I fill to about 1/4)
Club Soda
sprig of fresh basil (optional)

Put the syrup in over the ice and then gently pour the club soda over. Lightly crush the basil and stir in. It is so so so so so so good!

More rain and cold this week, and more rhubarb in my kitchen!

::good stuff::
I like adding ginger to just about everything. It has so many beneficial properties and also has fantastic flavor. Ginger is known to help with stomach issues - stomach aches, gas, nausea, even motion and sea sickness! Ginger has anti-oxidant properties and fantastic anti-inflammatory effects. It is a good immune system booster as well. Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don't have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

dandelion season.

Spring is here. And with that comes fresh greens from the garden as well as foraging for all kinds of good things nature has to offer. One of the closest and easiest things to forage is dandelions. I don't have to go far at all. I can find them in my own yard. Yesterday we had a sunny morning, a hot day ahead, and lots of dandelions in bloom.

To pick dandelions is easy - we needed a few quarts of flowers for several recipes, so we just plucked the heads right off. It is best to pick the dandelions early in the day - before full heat and before they wilt or close up. I know this is pretty obvious, but only pick from organic lawns -not anywhere that has been sprayed - and best to stay back from busy roads or where you know animals (dogs) have been doing their business.

What we wanted was enough dandelions for lemonade!

We found a really good recipe here via a Facebook friend - but since I am biologically incapable of ever following a recipe exactly I have my own version. ;)

1 quart of fresh dandelion flowers
3 lemons, juiced (organic best so you can use the rind too)
2 limes, juiced
1 knob of ginger (thumb sized), thinly sliced
honey to taste
filtered room temperature water

After picking the flowers rinse and drain them in cold water. Add them to a 1/2 gallon canning jar. To that add the juice of the lemons and limes, as well as a few (clean) rinds left from the squeezing, the ginger and the honey. Fill the canning jar with room temperature filtered water.

Let it steep for a few hours. From there strain it and chill!

A loves it plain (and cold!).

G loves it with a little elderberry syrup. "Pink" lemonade.

Both are delicious!

We have some more time in this dandelion season and are working on batches of dandelion vinegar, oil and a salve. Dandelions and their greens just have so much good stuff in them it is worth it all. And if you are looking for some other ways to eat the flowers - check out these recipes. Dandelion Fritters over at Clean. And Dandelion Cookies at 5 Orange Potatoes. Yum.