I got the inspiration for this from the blog Coconut & Lime. There was a post with a recipe for a Rhubarb Soda which sounded so simple and so good. It was one of those “How-can-this-fail?” kind of things. Now most likely, I will be trying this later today. #1 — it sounds delicioso. #2 — there is fresh rhubarb in the house (hopefully there will be some leftover from a rhubarb upside-down cake which will also be happening later today). Plus it’s a perfect accompaniment to a nice outdoor BBQ (after all, it is National BBQ Month).
But since we just had the Kentucky Derby. . . was it the Kentucky Derby?. . . it was the one with the hats and the Mint Juleps. Anyhoo, I thought to myself, “Hey, what about a Rhubarb Julep?” Now aside from the rhubarb part, my recipe strays from the traditional julep in that I add a splash of club soda to give the drink some fizz and to help balance it out. Too often I’ve had mint juleps that have been either too sweet or too boozy (which is weird cuz I do drink bourbon straight). The club soda helps round everything out without just watering the drink down. So you really could think of this as a Rhubarb Soda with some bourbon in it.
So what can I tell you about rhubarb? I actually don’t know a lot, but one website (The Rhubarb Compendium) has a whole gaggle of info. Its roots can be traced back to ancient China with records dating back to almost 5000 years ago, give or take a couple of centuries. It was used for its medicinal purposes, primarily as a, um, cleanser. Today we pretty much consider it a pie plant. But here is a nice way of using rhubarb without having to make a pie.
Here’s what you need for the soda:
- 4 stalks rhubarb (chopped)
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. water
- club soda
1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, and water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low until the sugar dissolves. Cook for about 10 minutes to reduce. Run through a strainer, pressing the rhubarb through to get all the syrup.
2. In a glass of ice, pour about 1 T. of the syrup (or however much you want). Top off with club soda and stir.
Here’s what you need for the julep:
- 1 part prepared rhubarb syrup
- 2 parts bourbon
- crushed ice
- tonic water or club soda
Place ice in a glass. Pour about 1 oz. of the syrup over the ice. Add the bourbon. Top off with tonic water and stir.
There’s nothing like a good crumb cake to make a brunch special. Who doesn’t like crumb cake? Apparently lots of folks. It’s not that they don’t like crumb cake, it’s that they don’t really know what it is. Turns out, crumb cake is a regional dish, particular to the East Coast / New England area. Here’s a little blurb on it from The Food Maven. It has roots in Northern and Central Europe, possibly Poland or Germany (it is a streusel topping, after all). Plus when you think of a Dutch Apple Pie, you think about its streusel crumb topping. The Dutch are from Northern Central Europe, right?
Getting back to the regional cuisine bit– remember your American history from high school? The Germans and the Dutch had a lot of influence in the area (New Amsterdam was the name of New York before it became New York). So when they came here, they brought their food traditions. Although it’s weird that it remains a New England thing. The Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians did immigrate to other parts of the country, like the MidWest and Great Lakes region. For example, there is a lot of Finnish culture in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which now makes me crave some Nisu (It’s a Finnish bread that’s flavored with cardamom and I was able to track some down on my last trip to Houghton-Hancock. There’s also a great seafood restaurant up there, BTW. Of course, I could just be a sucker for all-you-can-eat fish.). But I digress…
I know right now you’re asking, “how is a crumb cake different from a coffee cake?” Well, let me tell you. It all has to deal with the amount of streusel on the top. Coffee cakes might have just a little bit of the streusel. But the topping could take up a majority of the cake in a crumb cake. And the topping is the best part! Well, the rest of the cake is tasty, too.
And that’s a whole bunch of Cultural Nuggets for ya! A couple of notes before you start: this recipe has both baking soda and baking powder. The baking soda is there to help neutralize the acid in the sour cream. This recipe also uses blueberries, but you can use any kind of berry. I’ve also see recipes for rhubarb crumb cakes and apple crumb cakes. There’s also some that just use jam. And now for the recipe. It should make one 10-inch cake. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the topping:
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/4 t. galangal (if you don’t have it available, just omit or use a little bit of nutmeg)
- 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 stick melted butter
Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the melted butter over the top and mix with a spoon to form large crumbles. Set aside.
For the cake:
- 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. honey
- 1 t. vanilla
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2/3 c. sour cream
- 1 pt. fresh blueberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray the pan with cooking spray and line with a parchment round. Set aside. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey. Mix for about 5 minutes to make sure everything is well incorporated. Add vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream. Stir to combine.
3. On low speed, gradually add flour and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spoon batter into the pan and level it off. Evenly top with the streusel.
4. Bake for 45 -60 minutes until center is done. Let cool completely.
So here’s one recipe where you can use the Pate Brisee. Now remember, that recipe makes enough for a double crust pie, so all you will need is half of that for this one. Or, you could make two different Galettes cuz they won’t last long 🙂
A “galette” might sound super fancy, but it’s really not. Essentially, it’s pie for people who really don’t want to be bothered with making a pie. You don’t even need a pie pan! Just put in a mound of filling in the center and just fold up the edges to make the sides. Very rustic.
So, this particular recipe is for a sweet free-form tart, but there are also savory types. I do have a recipe for a Mushroom Galette using different types of wild mushrooms, a nice stilton, leeks, caramelized onions, and some thyme. I’ll post that at a later date.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1/2 Pate Brisee recipe
- 1 pt. raspberries (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 golden)
- 1 c. rhubarb, cut into about 1/2 in. pieces (about the size of the raspberries)
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 T. cornstarch
- pinch of salt
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with 2 T. milk or heavy cream)
- sanding sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375. Place raspberries and rhubarb in a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, blend together the sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Gently fold in the sugar mixture into the fruit. Let stand for 15 – 20 minutes; if it sits too long, the rhubarb could get too mushy.
2. Roll out the half of the Pate Brisee to about a 12-in round. Pour the fruit into the center of the crust, leaving about 1 1/2 in border. Gently fold up the sides to form pleats; you can pinch them to seal. Brush the crust with the egg wash and dust with the sanding sugar.
3. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the crust is golden. Let cool slightly. Slice and serve with maybe a slightly sweetened whipped cream with some lemon zest. Vanilla ice cream is also a good accompaniment and maybe a sprig of mint.
I know I was planning on making some posts about mother’s day brunch ideas, but life happens. So hopefully better late than never. So this is a simple pate brisee recipe for both sweet and savory pies (I will be using this crust recipe for a Raspberry Rhubarb Tart that I will be making and posting later). You can add maybe about 1 tablespoon of sugar to the dough for just a little added touch of sweetness if you are making a fruit tart or apple pie. If you are making a more savory pie, just omit the sugar.
My recipe uses both butter and shortening to get that combination of flakiness and tenderness. You can keep this in the refrigerator for a couple of days, or in the freezer for a month or two. Since you can freeze it, you might as well make a couple of batches so you can whip up pies and tarts with no problem. If you do freeze it, thaw it out in the refrigerator overnight to use the next day. It’s important that all the ingredients are cold; you could even put the mixing bowl and processor blade in the freezer to chill them. This should be enough for one 9-in double crust pie. Here’s what you need:
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 t. salt
- 1 T. granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cubed
- 4 T. shortening
- 1/3 c. ice water, give or take a couple of tablespoons
1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor (you can do this by hand if you wish). Pulse for a couple of seconds to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until mixture forms a course meal.
2. While pulsing, drizzle water over the dough until it just comes together. The dough must not be wet or sticky. Press the dough out into a disk and wrap it in some plastic wrap or wax paper. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the dough can relax.
It’s spring and I again have an unbelievable craving for fiddleheads. I haven’t had any since I lived in Maine which was several years ago. There they weren’t as “odd” an ingredient cuz I could just drive up to the Hannaford up the road and get them. It might be a cultural phenomenon, which I think is due to the large French influence in the area (Quebec is just north of Maine), and I have found several rustic French recipes that use them, usually from Northern France. That region is a lot more similar in climate to Maine and Quebec so that could explain the regional popularity of them; similar climate, similar flora. It’s that whole work-with-what-the-land-gives-you kind of thing. I am not a horticultural anthropologist, so who knows if it’s true, but it makes sense to me.
Apparently these all come from the ostrich fern. For those who don’t know, fiddleheads are the immature shoot from the fern. Now do not go and just start harvesting some ferns from your backyard. Some ferns are toxic to eat at any developmental stage and if you don’t know what you are doing you could be making a big mistake. Which is why I just try to scour the markets for them. I did find them once at a market in downtown Ann Arbor, but they were not in good condition. The season for them is very very short keep an eye out for them. That’s probably why there are a lot of pickling recipes out there. The University of Maine does have a page of info that you should check out.
It’s hard to describe the taste. I’d say it’s a cross between asparagus and mushroom. Not like a button mushroom, but more earthy from like a woodland mushroom or morel. It’s a very delicate flavor, which could be easily overpowered. So recipes tend to be fairly simple with few ingredients.
Now to prep them, you have to thoroughly clean them. Since these are hand harvested, I imagine that there isn’t some gigantic mechanical produce cleaning machine to process them. You’ll have to bear with me (or is it “bare”?) because it has been some time since I’ve made this. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 lb. fiddleheads
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 T. butter
- 2 T. grapeseed oil (or some other neutral tasting oil)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh dill, to taste
1. Melt the butter in a saute pan with the oil over medium heat.
2. Add the shallot and cook until tender and opaque, about 2 minutes. Throw in the garlic and saute until the garlic perfumes the dish, maybe 1 minute.
3. Add the fiddleheads and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and toss. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until tender.
4. Sprinkle on your fresh dill and serve.
Again, it has been a long time since I made this so the timing might be a little off. I still am having some difficulty finding some fiddleheads here. But I am trying to encourage folks to try something that they might not consider. Expanding your horizons can be delicious!