Seeing a bumper crop of rhubarb in the garden signals early summer for many in the midwest. Rhubarb season starts in May and runs through June. After this season, rhubarb can be very bitter. If you have more than you can use fresh, it freezes well.
Rinse the rhubarb stalks, pat dry and cut into bite size pieces. Place in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for four hours. Place into a freezer safe bag, label with date and amount and freeze for up to six months. Frozen rhubarb can be used in baking crisps and muffins and making sauces without thawing. Steer clear of rhubarb leaves and roots. They are high in oxalic acid and are poisonous for humans and most animals.
If your garden is rhubarb free and no neighbors are offering to share, fresh rhubarb can often be found in the produce section of grocery stores and at local farmer’s markets. Rhubarb is sold in the frozen section of some grocery stores. This tart vegetable is full of fiber, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin.
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Rhubarb is most familiar as an ingredient in sweeter recipes like pies, crisps, cobblers, muffins, jams, and compotes. It can also be used in savory dishes.
Another way to prepare rhubarb is to roast it. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread bite-sized pieces of rhubarb on the pan and sprinkle lightly with sugar or drizzle with honey. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Roasted rhubarb can be tossed with salad greens, sliced almonds and crumbled feta or goat cheese for an early summer salad treat. Or try one of the following recipes to expand your rhubarb options.
Salmon with Savory Rhubarb Sauce
2 medium shallots (2 ounces)
1 ½ inch piece fresh ginger
1 large stalk rhubarb (about 8 ounces)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
Directions: Peel and dice the shallots. Peel the ginger and grate it finely. Dice the rhubarb.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, 1 minute. Stir in the ginger and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the orange juice and wine and bring to a boil over a high heat. Cook on high until the liquid is reduced by ¾, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the rhubarb loses its shape and the sauce is thickened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the honey, cayenne and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until the salmon is ready. The sauce may be made to this point up to two days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to serve, gently warm over a low heat.
While the sauce is simmering, spray a grill or grill pan with cooking spray and heat over a medium high heat. Season the salmon with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook the salmon for 10 minutes total per inch thickness, flipping once. While the fish is cooking cut the basil leaves into ribbons. Right before serving, stir all but 2 tablespoons of the basil into the sauce.
To serve, spoon about ¼ cup of the sauce onto each plate. Top each with a salmon fillet and garnish with the remaining basil.
Makes 4 servings. Serving Size: ¼ cup sauce and 1 salmon fillet
Calories 370; Total Fat 14 g; Protein 35 g; Carb 20 g; Fiber 1 g; Sodium 230 mg
Eatingwell.com Nonstick cooking spray
1 ¾ cup regular rolled oats
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup finely chopped rhubarb
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line twelve 2½-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; coat paper cups with cooking spray. Or coat muffin cups with cooking spray.
Place ¾ cup of the oats in a food processor; cover and process until ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in another ¾ cup of the oats, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture.
In a medium bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir in rhubarb. Add rhubarb mixture all at once to flour mixture; stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy). Spoon into prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full.
For streusel topping, in a small bowl stir together brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oats and walnuts. Sprinkle over batter in muffin cups.
Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups. Serve warm.
Per Serving:181 calories; protein 4.8g; carbohydrates 29.8g; dietary fiber 2.7g; fat 5.1g; sodium 179.8mg.
Susan Leifer is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse