Savor some rhubarb recipes

What exactly can you do with the “pie plant?”

Festive flavors: Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Rhubarb Margarita.

By Donna Zitter Bordelon

“That’s rhubarb, right? What do you do with it?” came a question from the lady in back of me while we were in line at a local supermarket. The cashier made the same inquiry, so I gave them a quick heads-up on this vegetable known as the “pie plant” that is used as a fruit in pies, cakes, breads, muffins, puddings, relishes, jams, jellies and salsas, and can even be fermented to make wine.

Since I received another inquiry about rhubarb by email, I decided to share some favorite recipes.

My dad always referred to rhubarb as a spring tonic, along with dandelions ­ — essential foods to begin the spring season, in his opinion. Rhubarb is a good source of Vitamin A, K and C. Since many vitamins are contained in the skin, it should not be peeled.

Shop for rhubarb that is ruby red or dark pink in color. The ends should look like they were plucked from the garden, not cut across. Refrigerate rhubarb in a loosely covered plastic bag. When ready to use, wash the rhubarb, trim the bottoms, and cut off any leafy remains. Rhubarb has enormous, green leaves that contain oxalic acid, which is toxic. Fresh rhubarb can be cut into 1-inch pieces and frozen in a container or zip bag for future use, as rhubarb’s season is limited.

This is my family’s favorite rhubarb dish.

RHUBARB CRUNCH

4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 lb.) Set aside.

Crust and Topping:

1½ cups flour

1½ cups oatmeal

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup butter, melted

1½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup chopped walnuts

Confectioners sugar

Syrup:

1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

1 tsp. vanilla

Wash, dry and cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the crust and topping ingredients until crumbly.

Press two-thirds of this mixture into an 8×8-inch pan.

Evenly distribute the cut rhubarb over the oatmeal-flour crust.

In a medium pot, combine sugar, cornstarch and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat slightly, and continue to cook until it becomes clear.

Stir in the vanilla, and pour syrup evenly over rhubarb.

Top with remaining oatmeal-flour crust topping.

Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Allow to cool slightly and refrigerate. Good either warm or cold.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Although my dad enjoyed the following recipe chilled for breakfast, if you’re celebrating Cinco de Mayo, use the liquid for a tasty Rhubarb Margarita, and save the stewed rhubarb to add to oatmeal for a healthy, tasty addition, or to mix into yogurt, or to serve over ice cream.

STEWED RHUBARB AND SYRUP

3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces (about ¾ lb.)

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup water

In a medium pot, put the rhubarb, sugar and water. Bring to a rapid boil, stir and reduce heat to a medium low boil. Place lid ajar on pot (we don’t want the syrup to spill onto the range) and cook for 10–15 minutes. Strain syrup into a heat-resistant measuring cup, saving the stewed rhubarb. Cool.

CINCO DE MAYO RHUBARB MARGARITA

½ cup rhubarb syrup

1 lime, juiced (about ¼ cup)

2 oz. tequila

2 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec

2 cups ice

Lime wedges

Kosher or Sea Salt

Into a blender, put the syrup, lime juice, tequila, Cointreau and ice.

Puree until blended.

Run a lime wedge around the rim of a glass. Line a shallow saucer with salt and dip the edge of the limed rim into the salt.

Pour the Rhubarb Margarita into the glass and garnish glass with lime wedge.

Serve up or on the rocks.

Makes 3 drinks.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

Don’t forget:

Send in your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 ShopRite gift card. Mail your recipe to Readers’ Recipes, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002. Or email your recipe to WhatscookinNEPhilly@gmail.com. Please include name, address and telephone number.