It signals the beginning of spring when vibrant stalks of rhubarb poke their heads out of the ground and wait for the sun to shine upon them—brush stroking them to brilliant pink or ruby red, all ready to show up at grocers and local farmers markets.
When I was a kid, there was a neighbor’s garden right up against the playground’s cyclone fence, with openings just big enough for small hands. We dared each other to reach through the fence, pull up a super-tart, under ripe rhubarb stalk and take a big bite. Ooooew! It is still one of my favorite prankster jokes to play on the non-rhubarb-savvy. “Hey, have you tried this cool new red celery? Isn’t it beautiful—here, try a bite!” Hee-hee.
Rhubarb stalks range in color from pale green, sometimes speckled with pink, to pink and bright red—coloring depends on the variety, and is not a guide to quality or degree of sourness. Hot house rhubarb is the first to come into the grocery stores, but it doesn’t have as big a flavor as local crops or that grown in backyards
The one thing to be cautious of if using home-grown, is to be sure that only the stems are eaten and that any leaf is trimmed off as the leaf portion is poisonous.
Rhubarb has lent its tangy flavor to pies and applesauce over the years and is most commonly used in desserts. Try baking up my Apple Rhubarb Sour Cream Tart with Walnut Crust. The sweet apple, tart rhubarb and delicate custard are wonderfully set off by the nutty flavors of the crust and crunchy topping. You can either make this pie before dinner and pop it out of the oven about 30 to 60 minutes before you plan on serving it, or bake it early in the morning then refrigerate it until dinnertime.
Apple Rhubarb Sour Cream Tart with Walnut Crust
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons walnut pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, cold, cut in pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water
Topping2 tablespoons butter, cold
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped walnutsFilling
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 cups peeled, 1/2-inch-diced Gala apple
2 cups of 1/2-inch-sliced rhubarbTo make the crust: In work bowl of food processor, combine flour, cinnamon, walnuts and salt. Process until nuts are very finely chopped. Add butter and pulse in until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.
With processor running, add ice water, about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, and process only until dough starts to form a ball. Do not over-process dough. Remove dough from processor. Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20 minutes before rolling.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl make the topping: Cut the butter into small pieces, and add the remaining topping ingredients. Combine with fingers until crumbly. Set aside.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, stir sugar, flour and salt together. Add the egg and sour cream and whisk till smooth. Add the diced apple and rhubarb and mix in gently. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a bit bigger than a 9-inch pie pan. Brush excess flour off crust, then gently roll up crust onto rolling pin. Unroll into pie pan and fit crust into pan. Roll excess crust over to make a thick edge, then crimp decoratively.Spoon filling into crust. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove pie from oven and sprinkle with topping, distributing evenly. Return pie to oven for about 30 minutes more, until topping appears to be slightly crispy and lightly browned.Cool thoroughly before cutting. Store refrigerated. ©2006 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®