Early summer is the perfect time of year to indulge in rhubarb. A perennial vegetable, only the fibrous pink stalk is edible as the leaves and roots of the rhubarb plant are extremely high in oxalic acid, which can be toxic. Rhubarb traces its roots back thousands of years to where it first originated in China and was given as tribute to emperors. It was taken as a remedy for various ailments, although its users were warned of its potency. Rhubarb was transported along the Silk Road from Asia and was an expensive commodity in medieval Europe. Marco Polo documented Chinese rhubarb at great length in his travels, although the stalks did not start to make their way into European cooking until the 18th century. It is interesting to note that the medicinal rhubarb used historically was an inedible species, while the rhubarb we use today in foods such as pies and tarts is a hybrid.
Although it’s technically a vegetable, rhubarb is commonly used in fruit and dessert dishes due to its tart, green apple-like flavor. Cooked rhubarb can be added to pies, crisps, and baked goods, or even made into a flavorful chutney or jam to be served with meat dishes. Rhubarb can also be sliced and frozen and added to juices and smoothies. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one half cup serving of raw rhubarb contains only 13 calories and delivers about 5% percent of the daily value for calcium, 8% for vitamin C, 3-5% for potassium, and 15% of the daily value for vitamin K.
The following recipes are reprinted from www.EatingWell.com and were created by the EatingWell Test Kitchen
Skillet Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 4 cups sliced rhubarb (½-inch; about 1 pound), fresh or frozen (thawed)
- 4 cups hulled and quartered strawberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange or lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups gluten-free rolled oats
- ½ cup almond meal
- ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until just starting to brown. Add rhubarb, strawberries and sugar; cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 3. Whisk orange (or lemon) juice, cornstarch and vanilla in a small bowl. Drizzle over the fruit mixture and stir to combine.
- Combine oats, almond meal, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and stir into the oats mixture. Crumble the topping over the fruit.
- Bake the crisp until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Strawberry Rhubarb Quinoa Pudding
- 2¼ cups water, divided
- 1½ cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup chopped strawberries, fresh or frozen, plus more for garnish
- ⅓ cup quinoa
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine 2 cups water in a medium saucepan with rhubarb, strawberries, quinoa, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in ½ cup sugar and lemon zest. Whisk cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup water in a small bowl. Stir into the quinoa mixture, return to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Remove from heat. Divide the pudding among 6 bowls. Refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
- Just before serving, combine yogurt, vanilla and the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl. Top each serving with a generous dollop of the vanilla yogurt and fresh strawberries, if desired.
Make Ahead Tip: Prepare pudding (Steps 1-2), cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Make the topping (Step 3) just before serving.
Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a Registered Dietitian, Diabetes Educator, and freelance nutrition writer based out of Coeur d’Alene. She maintains a blog at www.plantasticeating.com.