Monthly Archives: May 2010

Rhubarb-ginger brioche bread pudding

I received some devastating news this week….rhubarb apparently “doesn’t grow in The South.” And by “doesn’t grow,” I mean the plants don’t take the heat well. One website I found said it grows best in Michigan, Washington and Oregon (sigh).  Finding these red and green stalks has been just short of a nightmare.

Upon learning this agricultural tip, I had to look inward and ask myself deep questions, like, “What will this mean for the Rhubarb Challenge? Should I postpone it? *shudder* Cancel it? Should I take on a new challenge instead?”

Fate answered my questions when I discovered frozen rhubarb at Fresh Market (and no, Whole Foods didn’t have it. They have frozen acai and goji berries, but no freaking rhubarb). I bought three bags and marched home to make my second recipe for the Rhubarb Challenge: rhubarb and ginger bread pudding.

Folks, it was really good. I bought freshly baked brioche from Ollie’s Bakery…

Ollie's Bakery

And layered thick eggy slices with the vanilla-bean custard and chunky rhubarb compote. After baking, I brushed the rhubarb sauce over the top, brought it to a cook-out and served it with fresh whipped cream. At first, my friends’ responses were:

Kelly: “What’s…rhubarb?”

Lance: “I cook a lot and I’ve never heard of rhubarb…is it a vegetable?”

Rachel: (raised eyebrow)

Bethany: “I don’t know what this is, but I like it!”

Those kids gobbled almost the entire pan up…and that’s after eating locally farmed burgers, brats and assorted side dishes (plus Miss Anna Lyn’s sangria).

The tartness of the rhubarb is wonderful with the richness of the custard, perfectly flavored with specks of vanilla bean. The ginger was not overpowering – a surprise – and in fact just added a new dimension to my favorite (fruit? vegetable?) stalk.

This will be empty by the end of the day...

The big takeaway was that my FROZEN RHUBARB worked perfectly. It was bright red and beautiful. So I highly recommend using frozen, if you can find it (in a pinch).

Rhubarb-ginger bread pudding (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Serves 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/3 c. chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 T orange zest
  • 2 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or just buy frozen)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • butter, for dish
  • 8-10 thick slices of brioche, cut lengthwise (one loaf)…you can also use challah
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream

Whisk preserves and water in large skillet over medium heat until dissolved. Add ginger, orange zest and rhubarb. Bring to simmer, stirring gently, until rhubarb is slightly tender, about 10 min. Pour mixture through large sieve over large saucepan. Let drain in fridge while you get going on the custard…

Preaheat oven to 350. Whisk sugar and eggs in medium bowl. Set aside.

In medium saucepan, add milk and cream and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Gradually whisk cream into egg mixture, blending completely.

Butter 13×9 inch baking dish. Arrange bread slices along bottom, then spoon over half the drained rhubarb mixture. Repeat with bread and rhubarb. Pour custard over the top and gently press to make sure the bread absorbs all the liquid.

Place dish in roasting pan or lined baking sheet, filling with water to create a water bath (try to get liquid halfway up the dish). Bake until pudding is just set in the middle, covering the top with foil if it gets too dark, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand in water bath another 30 minutes, or while you make the whipped cream and sauce…

Boil the draining rhubarb liquid until reduced to 1 c., about 15 minutes. Brush the sauce over the bread pudding before serving.

To serve, spoon pudding onto plate and top with sauce and whipped cream.

This recipe proves that even if you have no clue what rhubarb is, or don’t care, you’ll still enjoy it. Let my diverse and opinionated group of friends attest to that. Enjoy the beautiful weekend, friends! xoxo

Strawberry-rhubarb crumble

One little perfect thing

Introducing….The Rhubarb Challenge! Just like my Pumpkin Challenge (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), I have turned one of my favorite stalks into a challenge that will reward my sweet tooth. However, I don’t know if I’ll make eight recipes…maybe this will just be a one-month challenge. Between now and the end of June. Ready, Set, Go!

First up: strawberry-rhubarb crumble, which I found in a recent Bon Appetit. I like this recipe because the crumble has toasted hazelnuts in it. I would never have thought to put hazelnuts in a crumble, but the result was quite nice. Really made it special and not taste like every other strawberry-rhubarb thing. Not to discount the miraculous combination of strawberries and rhubarb.

What a splendid way to start my Rhubarb Challenge – we got a bucket of freshly picked strawberries at the farmers’ market, of which I used about four cups of the berries.

Hand-picked

You must serve this either warm with one scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cold out of the fridge – just you, the dish and a spoon.

Strawberry-rhubarb crumble

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. plus 1/2 c. sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 6 T cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 12 oz. rhubarb, ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces

Preheat oven to 375. Butter baking dish.

Combine flour, 2/3 c. sugar, salt in medium bowl and whisk to blend. Add butter, rubbing with fingers until is sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts.

Place 1/2 c. sugar in large bowl. Add strawberries and rhubarb, toss to coat. Pour fruit into baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping over strawberry mixture, clumping together with your fingers. Pat the top down a little to form a crust.

Bake on a cookie sheet (it will bubble over!) until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp, about 45-50 min. Let cool 15 min. while you do something fun like finish watching “Rachel Getting Married.”

Juices worth burning your fingers to taste!

Spoon warm crumble into bowls and serve with ice cream.

You’ll find it’s a little soupy at first, but those juices will thicken the next day. Plus, they are delicious! Aren’t you excited for the next edition of the Rhubarb Challenge?! I am. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

A perfect Sunday…

…would go something like this: sleeping in, then getting a lavender latte at Krankies Silver Bullet. Then, getting bagels and The New York Times and consuming in a sunny breakfast nook.

Later, a nice jog through the Wake Forest trails and then a stroll through the Reynolda Gardens, where the roses are going crazy. Next, maybe throw in a fruit smoothie to encourage the healthy living.

Later, maybe you feel inspired to go to the Piedmont Triad Farmers’ Market, where you will be blown away by all the produce ripe for the taking. Buy a fig tree because you’ve always wanted one. Add a blue hydrangea plant to the mix because they make you dream of having a home in The Hamptons (East Egg or West Egg?). Let someone else figure out how to fit these into a sporty car while you check out the heirloom tomatoes, which are “ugly,” just the way you like them (and only $2.50 per pound)…

These are always different colors when you cut into them

Next, you’ll look at the basil, which cost a shy$1 per bouquet. You’ll buy three, just ’cause.

Can you smell that?

Now you have lunch planned: scalloped tomatoes with white wine. But something is missing…oh yes, flowers. Accept a bouquet of bachelor’s buttons in blue, purple, pink and white. They will look perfect on a kitchen table, or in your newly decorated bedroom.

Those paper-like petals with the sage stems make me want to dance barefoot in a soft cotton sundress…

Along the way, you might also want to pick up some scented geraniums, because they ward off mosquitoes during the warm summer evenings. And, of course, a full gallon bucket of freshly picked strawberries, right off the back of a farm truck, weeping with juice and perfuming your car with that intoxicating sweetness.

I just love the mismatched baskets of these ruby beauties, some of them no bigger than the tip of your finger and others worth a couple bites. Most grocery-store varieties are huge, but taste like water.

Strawberries are a story best told with rhubarb … and the beginning of a new challenge I will be announcing shortly…

More to come, friends! xoxo

Sesame-peanut noodle salad

At work, we have lunch frequently catered and whenever we get The Carving Board, people go crazy for their Asian noodle salad: thin noodles with sesame and ginger flavors. After watching Ina Garten make her crunchy noodle salad a few times, I decided to try my own version of this tasty side dish. How wrong can you go with peanut butter, ginger, garlic, soy, sesame and scallions?

You can add your own twist to these salads – for me, I added blanched broccoli and roasted chicken breast, which turned it into a nice little lunch meal as well as a hearty side dish. As with all pasta salads, this gets even better the second day and can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Sesame-peanut noodle salad

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound thin whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, divided
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, sliced diagonally
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400. Place chicken breasts on cooking sheet and rub with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until tender but cooked-through, about 25-30 min. When done, remove from skin and bone and shred into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the broccoli, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Drain and immerse in a bowl of ice water. Drain.

For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.

Combine the spaghetti, broccoli, chicken, peppers and scallions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the parsley and toss together.

I brought this to a backyard barbecue and then ate the leftovers for lunch the next day. I think I like it best when cold. Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Take me home, country roads…

Blue Ridge Mountains - view from the deck

Every time I travel into the country, I get excited about how quaint and simple life is when you don’t have things like a cell phone, Internet or extended cable television. There’s something comforting about leaving your real life behind and then, a few days later, coming back smelling like pine and campfire.

Now, I’ve been known to “rough it” – camping in places with no bathrooms or running water or even outhouses. Just you and nature. But if I get a chance to be in nature and not rough it, I will jump at the opportunity. So came about a recent weekend getaway from the rat race of life.

Not roughing it, for me, involves lots of wine and delicious foods. Like locally made sweet-potato butter!

Spooned on cranberry-walnut toast, it is absolutely delicious. Tastes just like sweet-potato pie. This came from the Reynolda Farm Market in W-S. In the photo below, the sweet-potato butter is served on toast, along with spicy sage sausage (also from that little market), organic scrambled eggs from someone’s local farm and fresh berries with cream.

Square meal!

See? Just because you are getting away doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your gourmet snobbery. Each meal we enjoyed was quite gourmet, even when eating pimento cheese dip (that’s a whole post on its own – The South never fails to surprise me with its uses of bacon fat and cheese) or riding a four-wheeler to a picnic spot and then opening a nice bottle of red wine.

One new thing I tried was homemade butter. Why haven’t I been making my own butter for years? It has one ingredient! Cream!!

Finally, I prepared a delicious meal of pecan-crusted halibut with dijon cream sauce; served with couscous and sides of grilled pineapple and an arugula & heirloom tomato salad.

Friends, this kind of cabin living … a girl can get used to. xoxo

Country roads take me home to the place I belong …. take me home,  country roads.

Simple pleasures

As the temperature creeps past 70 each day, so follows the humidity. And with humidity comes warm evenings that make me lust after screened-in porches with hanging lanterns and views of the greenery. If there is one thing I will always associate with my Southern Living, it is screened-in porches.

Another simple pleasure is random acts of thoughtfulness. I had a crummy day last weekend and my thoughtful roommate met my mood with “Can I pour you a glass of wine and make you lunch?” Good god, yes. And then I found she had placed a bouquet of sunflowers and my favorite food magazines on my bed.

Honestly, what would we do without our women friends?

We enjoyed a crisp chicken Caesar salad from Whole Foods, leftover roasted potatoes and a glass of pinot grigio.

And then we sat in the back porch, talking about life and just watching the leaves blow.