Monday, April 09, 2007

Ripe Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a sour, astringent tasting vegetable, which is normally eaten as a fruit. Its tart nature is usually married with a large amount of sugar in pies, cobblers, jams and other desserts. This perennial plant grows well in regions with a cold winter, as it needs the cold for its winter dormancy – growing well in areas such as Siberia and Alaska.
The name rhubarb derives from the Latin rha barbarum. Rhubarb was found growing along the banks of the Rha river, the previous name for the Volga river. (The geography buff in me has to give a bit of information – the Volga is the longest river in Europe, starting in the northwestern part of Russia and draining in the Caspian Sea – see map) The Romans considered Russia to be barbarian territory. So the name rha barbarum, literally means from the barbarian, Rha.

The red and green, celery-like stalks are the only edible parts of the rhubarb plant. Rhubarb is high in Vitamins A & C and dietary fiber. The leaves and roots of the plant are toxic due to the excessive amount of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is corrosive to your body tissue, removing calcium from the blood.

When buying rhubarb, look for stalks with a bright, vivid color and ones that feel dry, firm, and crisp. Avoid stalks that are limp or wilted or have brown areas. About an hour before cooking with rhubarb, stand the stalks in cold water to refresh and crisp them.

Looking for a road trip? Kankakee, Illinois, about 45 miles south of Chicago is hosting their annual Rhubarb Festival on Sunday, May 20. With live music, rhubarb pie eating and tours of their one-room school house it sounds like an interesting stop.

Make about 4 cups

1 cup diced rhubarb
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced white onions
1 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Refrigerate. Serve cold with tortilla chips.

Serves 4


3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups 1/2" cubed fresh rhubarb, about 1 1/2 lbs
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup dried tart cherries or golden raisins

2 pork tenderloins (about 1 1/2 pounds -- trimmed)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

For the chutney:
Combine first 8 ingredients in heavy large Dutch oven. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and dried cherries; increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

For the pork:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle pork with cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to roasting pan. Brush pork with 6 tablespoons chutney. Roast until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F, brushing occasionally with 6 more tablespoons chutney, about 25 minutes. Slice pork into medallions.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with remaining chutney.


Anonymous said...

I have never commented on a site like this before but must let you know that your site is a treat ever time it is sent to me. I learn as much from your site as I do from so-called teaching sites. Please keep up the great work.
A new personal chef in Toronto, Canada.

Chef Jen said...

Thank you Toronto PC! That means a lot to me coming from a fellow foodie.