I don’t like vegetables. There are a few I find tolerable and occasionally enjoy eating, like carrots or bell peppers, but for the most part I just don’t really like them.
There is one vegetable, though, that people eat like fruit., and it’s my favorite. You can eat it fresh and just dip it in sugar, or you can put it in a pie or a tart. It’s a hardy perennial that needs cold weather to grow properly (re: grows very well in Minnesota). Know what it is? Rhubarb.
A lot of people don’t know what rhubarb is, or have only eaten it in a strawberry-rhubarb pie where the plant itself is virtually unrecognizable.
Rhubarb looks a lot like celery, but with some red coloring (although I think there may be a yellow variety) and giant (toxic) leaves. The texture is similar, but it doesn’t taste at all like celery! It’s sweet and very tart. My siblings and I used to bike to our grandmother’s house, and she’d feed us rhubarb with a little dish of sugar to dip it in.
Yesterday, I harvested a bunch of rhubarb. Plants are apparently only supposed to be productive for 8-15 years, but this plant is definitely older than that. It still produces delicious rhubarb stalks.
I wanted to make something with the rhubarb and settled on individual tarts.
First, I made a pastry dough that The New Best Recipe suggests for tarts. It tastes a bit like a cookie, but the texture is somewhere between a sugar cookie and typical pie dough. To make individual tart shells I cut small circles of the dough and molded them around an upside-down muffin tin. This works well with pie dough, but not, it turns out, with the less structured tart pastry dough that I used.
Instead of individual tart cups, I ended up with falling apart cups. To salvage the work I did, I broke theses apart onto a cookie sheet and finished baking them until they were a light brown.
To make the filling (which didn’t end up being “filling”), I decided to use an old Betty Crocker recipe for “Cooked Rhubarb” with one addition. While the recipe called for boiling a half cup of water with 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar, then adding chopped rhubarb and simmering until its tender and translucent, I decided to add some strawberries. I processed the strawberries into a liquid, then reduced the water slightly. I only used 3/4 cup of sugar.
The end result of my creative dessert making attempt was a rhubarb-strawberry mix with delicious pastry crumbs on top. I divided the rhubarb mix among 4 white 8 oz. ramekins, then divided the crumbs among these. To some, it looked like a mistake (although I resented their mentioning it – it made me want to eat it all so they couldn’t have any. Lesson: if you want to eat something I make, don’t insult it first). To others, it looked like a dessert in it’s own right. I thought they looked fantastic, but a taste test revealed a problem.
The entire dessert was a mess of too sweet. A bit of ice cream with every bite of dessert solved that problem, though. I think a second attempt would involve incorporating pastry cream or a custard. I could certainly see making a full-sized tart instead of individuals, but the crumb-on-top method made for an easy way to eat both crust and filling at the same time without sacrificing visual appeal.
Sadly, I forgot to take photos of any of this. I was too busy rolling out dough and getting my hands dirty! And too lazy once I got to the final product.