cook | A touch of sweetness tames tart rhubarbby faith kramer
It’s the season for rhubarb, which always makes me glad. I have happy memories of my Grandma Clara stewing me up a batch of rhubarb harvested from a neighbor’s field.
Rhubarb has a long association with traditional Jewish foods, from fish and lamb dishes in the Near and Middle East to compotes and puddings in Eastern Europe.
The plant’s purplish-red and green-tinged stalks cook up pink. Often strawberries or sugar are added to tame its astringency. Here I combine rhubarb’s tartness with beets’ sweetness in a borscht.
Blintzes made with buckwheat flour are an earthy complement to the tangy Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.
Rhubarb Beet Borscht
1-1⁄2 lbs. beet roots, trimmed
8 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. ground white pepper
1⁄4 tsp. ground cardamom
1⁄2 tsp. sugar or more as needed
1⁄2 tsp. lemon juice or more as needed
garnishes (see suggestions)
Thinly peel beet roots. Dice into 1⁄4-inch pieces (4 cups). Bring stock to a simmer. Add beets and garlic. Simmer 15 minutes until beets have begun to soften. Slice rhubarb into 1⁄4-inch pieces (3 cups). Add rhubarb, salt, pepper and cardamom to soup.
Simmer until rhubarb is falling part and beets are completely soft, 30-40 minutes. Taste. Add sugar and/or lemon juice to balance the taste from sweet to tart. Cool and purée half in a blender or with immersion blender and return to pot. Serve warm with garnishes (below) or chill. If serving cold, taste and correct seasoning before garnishing with sour cream or yogurt; sliced hard-boiled eggs; sliced, boiled potatoes; minced fresh dill or mint.
Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (recipe below)
4 Tbs. melted butter, divided
For Buckwheat Crêpe Batter:
3⁄4 cup flour
1⁄4 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup milk
1⁄2 cup cold water
2 Tbs. oil
1⁄4 tsp. salt
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 beaten egg
1⁄4 tsp. salt
To make batter, combine all seven ingredients in a blender and blend on high until well mixed, then for another 20 seconds. Let sit for 1 hour and blend again. For filling, in a separate bowl combine the three ingredients and mix well.
To assemble blintzes: Melt 3 Tbs. butter. Heat 8-inch omelet, fry or crêpe pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter. When sizzling, lift pan up and pour in 1⁄4 cup batter, swirling to coat bottom evenly. Return to heat.
Cook for 1 minute or until the top of the crêpe is set and bottom is light brown or has brown spots. Turn out on a clean dishcloth. Repeat until batter is done, reapplying the melted butter before each crêpe.
Lay crêpe browned side down. Place 2 Tbs. filling in middle, leaving about a 1-inch margin at top and bottom of crêpe. Fold top over filling, then fold bottom over. Fold one side over, then the other. Repeat with remaining crêpes. Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry in batches, 2 minutes on each side. Serve topped with compote.
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb
1⁄2 cup orange juice
2 cups quartered strawberries
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. sugar
Simmer rhubarb with orange juice until rhubarb is just soft. Add strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. Simmer until strawberries are just cooked. Chill. Use at room temperature.
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