Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Sweet and Sour

January's blog included a monthly list of suggestions for increasing local food into your diet. Included are buying local eggs in January, trying to purchase a chest freezer in February, visiting a sugar shack in March, and joining a CSA in April. Here we are already in May and it is time to eat wild leeks, rhubarb and other early foods. So....how are you doing so far? If you have made progress or want to share exciting “local food” news, don't hesitate to comment here.

It is the last day of April, but my rhubarb will be ready very soon! I am excited it has grown so quickly even through the dreary days. I leave for a ten-day trip on Monday, so my plan is to use the tallest stalks for a dessert this weekend. I can't wait any longer. I am going to make the Chocolate Chip-Rhubarb Cake (see recipe below). When I return, I will make the Curried Lentils with Rhubarb and Potatoes. Rhubarb adds an interesting zest to dishes that are not desserts/sweets. If you do decide to make a dessert with the rhubarb, try adding almond or orange extract to cut out some of the sugar. Freezing rhubarb is easy too. Just wash the stalks and chop in pieces and place in a freezer bag. That is it.

Along with wild leeks and maple syrup, rhubarb is a true north country food. The oldest farms have hidden patches in places you wouldn't think of. I have found at least two other patches (that we didn't plant) around our farm hidden amongst rocks and shrubs. Most north country locals have a story of their grandmother eating rhubarb with salt or sugar. Rhubarb is wonderful (once you give it a chance) and to keep it growing all you have to do is....well....nothing. It is a perennial and cares for itself. The only care I do give is I chop the large leaves (poisonous) off right in the patch and leave them on the ground for weed control. If you live in town and want a bit of country life along with the experience of growing your own food, try rhubarb. It is perfect for landscaping on the side of the house or along a fence.

In June it will be strawberry season. One thing to think on is to freeze extra berries so they last from season to season. I still have some in my freezer - which is great this time of year as I now can easily make a strawberry-rhubarb pie. If I had to go buy strawberries from California to go with my local fresh rhubarb, I probably wouldn't make the pie. A little planning, a big freezer and your excitement over regional food goes a long way.

Chocolate Chip Rhubarb Cake

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup butter

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. almond or orange extract

2 cups flour (your choice of flour)

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 ¾ cup chopped rhubarb

½ cup chocolate chips



Topping:

1 tsp. vanilla

½ cup chopped nuts

1 tsp. almond or orange extract (whatever you used above)

¼ cup chocolate chips (if you want more chocolate)

½ cup brown sugar

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and other extract. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, alternately with buttermilk, mixing with each addition. Stir in rhubarb and chocolate chips. Pour into greased 9 X 13 baking dish. Combine topping ingredients. Sprinkle over cake batter and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.



Curried Lentils with Rhubarb and Potatoes

1 cup dry orange or yellow lentils

1 very large sweet potato, peeled and sliced

1 tbsp. oil

1 cup rhubarb, diced

2 Tbsp. liquid sweetener – honey, maple syrup, sugar syrup

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. ginger root, grated

1 tsp. red hot chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup shredded coconut

Cover lentils with water in a deep pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add raw sweet potato slices. Simmer until soft. Remove from heat, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 400F. Heat oil in a skillet and once hot, add rhubarb. Reduce heat and cook until tender. Stir in sweetener and seasonings. Mix with drained cooked lentils and potatoes that have been mashed together with a fork. Pour into a oven-proof dish and bake until piping hot, about 20 minutes. Garnish with coconut. Serve with chutney and a bowl of brown rice.

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