Our rhubarb plants are sporting long, ruby red stalks that need to be picked almost daily. Often referred to as a pie plant, rhubarb is actually a vegetable, and related to sorrel and buckwheat. In the kitchen, it is amazing versatile, making into breads, muffins, jams and chutneys, even soups, juice and ice cream.
My family has always enjoyed rhubarb sauce, a simple preparation of chopped rhubarb cooked until soft and sweetened with maple syrup or sugar. To make a quick and easy chutney that is a delicious adornment for meat or chicken, combine chopped rhubarb with onions, balsamic vinegar, candied ginger and cranberries. Sweeten with sugar, and cook until the cranberries start to pop.
For armchair cooks, the website, http://www.rhubarbinfo.com, is a compilation of rhubarb history, varieties, cultivation, and recipes. It’s amazing how many creative ways folks have stewed, roasted, poached and simmered with rhubarb. In particular, my gastronomical juices were excited over Duck Breast with Rhubarb Cherry Sauce and Grilled Chicken with Rhubarb Relish. One pound of rhubarb is about 4 cups chopped, and when cooked, yields about ¾ to 1-cup sauce.
The recipe for Apple Rhubarb Maple Custard is one that I just recently scaled up and prepared as part of a supper for 200 folks. Gluten-free and sugar-free, it is tart and silky on the palate. The apples give the custard body, and the rhubarb adds the extra nutritional punch of Vitamins C and K and fiber. This dish would also make a nice addition to a festive brunch.
Like asparagus and chives, rhubarb is one of the early plants that herald the arrival of spring. Rhubarb was grown for centuries as an ornamental and for medicinal purposes. Here in Maine, no farm or homestead was complete without a patch (usually beside the barn) of the perennial plant rhubarb.
Apple Rhubarb Maple Custard
- 1 cup peeled, cored, and sliced apples
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate or soufflé dish. Prepare the apples and rhubarb and arrange in the bottom of the pan. Using a blender or a bowl with a whisk, combine the eggs, maple syrup, yogurt, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour the custard over the fruit. Bake around 45 minutes, until it just sets. Let cool on a rack and enjoy at room temperature.