Wednesday, June 8, 2011
We're off to Cape Cod to celebrate the wedding of a dear school friend. But I couldn't leave town without sharing a recipe from the archives - one I still make with regularity during rhubarb season. And the rhubarb is magnificent right now. The stalks from Keith's Farm have grown to such monstrous proportions that it only took one to make our clafoutis the other night. I hope you enjoy as much as we do.
Though it’s technically a vegetable, I can’t help feeling that rhubarb is the first fruit of spring, and I was thrilled when I saw a great tub of the ruby and jade stalks at the PJ Hoeffner Plants and Produce stand this weekend.
The first recorded planting of rhubarb in the Mediterranean was in Italy in 1608 - though at that point the fruit was used for medicinal purposes (it’s been popular through the centuries as a diuretic and digestive). Rhubarb came to the region from China in the early 17th Century, courtesy of Marco Polo’s visits home to his native Venice. It didn’t really catch on as a food until the mid-1700s was when sugar became more widely available.
I like my rhubarb roasted. I toss it in a little olive oil and dust it with confectioners’ sugar before putting it in a moderate oven for 5 minutes or so. This way the wedges hold their shape even though they’re tender and sweet. They keep well in the fridge for a few days and make a great topping for morning yogurt and evening ice cream. Rhubarb also plays a regular role in our home’s clafoutis.
Clafoutis is a traditional dessert in the south of France. In it’s most original form, clafoutis is prepared with black cherries, which I encourage you to try as well. The sweetness of the dessert is subtle, and the recipe is about as simple as baking gets. I sometimes omit the ¼ cup of sugar and allow the only sweetness to come from the sugar coating the rhubarb. Clafoutis can be prepared a little ahead of time and served warm rather than hot.
Either way, this is true family food, essentially pancake batter poured over fruit. My father has long shunned birthday cake in favor of the more delicate clafoutis.
Serves 6 – 8
¼ cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 tbsp good vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
extra virgin olive oil
1 – 1 ½ cups fresh rhubarb stalks, sliced on the bias into ½ inch pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C, gas mark 4).
Using an electric kitchen mixer or blender, pulse together the ¼ cup of sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, salt, and flour.
Heat a shallow, stove-top-safe baking dish (about 7 to 8 cup capacity) over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil and then pour 1/4 inch batter into the dish. Cook over medium heat for a minute or so until the bottom of the batter has just started to set. Remove from the heat.
Toss the rhubarb with 1 tbsp of the sugar and arrange in the baking dish. Pour on the rest of the batter and smooth. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour until puffed and golden brown. A wooden toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the clafoutis should come out clean.
Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the clafoutis with a little confectioners’ sugar shaken through a sieve.