Seeing a record crop of rhubarb in the garden signals early summer for many in the Midwest. The rhubarb season starts in May and lasts until June. After this season, rhubarb can be very bitter. If you have more than you can use fresh, freeze it well.
Wash the rhubarb stems, pat them dry and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for four hours. Place in a freezer-safe bag, label with date and quantity and freeze for up to six months. Frozen rhubarb can be used for baking chips and muffins and making sauces without thawing. Stay away from rhubarb leaves and roots. They are high in oxalic acid and are toxic to humans and most animals.
If your yard is rhubarb-free and no neighbors offer to share, fresh rhubarb can often be found in the produce section of grocery stores and local farmers’ markets. Rhubarb is sold in the frozen section of some supermarkets. This acidic vegetable is full of fiber, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.
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Rhubarb is best known as an ingredient in sweeter recipes such as pies, chips, cobblers, muffins, jams and compotes. It can also be used in savory dishes.
Another way to prepare rhubarb is by roasting 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 of 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 for use: Peel and chop the shallots. Peel the ginger and grate it finely. Cut the rhubarb into cubes.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until soft, 1 minute. Stir in the ginger and cook for a further 30 seconds. Add the orange juice and wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook on high until liquid has reduced by ¾, about 4 minutes. Stir in rhubarb, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb loses shape and sauce has thickened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the honey, cayenne pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm until salmon is done. The sauce can be made up to two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, gently heat over a low heat.
While the sauce is simmering, spray a broiler or grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Season the salmon with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook the salmon for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness, turning once. While the fish is cooking, cut the basil leaves into ribbons. Just before serving, stir all but 2 tablespoons basil into the sauce.
To serve, spoon about ¼ cup of 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; Carbohydrates 20 g; fiber 1 g; Sodium 230mg
foodwell.com Cooking spray with non-stick coating
1 ¾ cup plain oatmeal
¾ cup whole-wheat 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 baking cups; cover paper cups with cooking spray. Or grease muffin tins with cooking spray.
Place ¾ cup of the oats in a food processor; cover and process to the ground. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in another ¾ cup of the oats, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
In a medium bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in the rhubarb. Add the rhubarb mixture to the flour mixture all at once; stir just until moistened (batter should be slightly lumpy). Spoon into prepared muffin tins, filling each about three-quarters full.
For streusel topping, in a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup oats and walnuts. Pour the batter into muffin tins.
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes in muffin tins on a wire rack. Remove from muffin tins. Serve hot.
Per serving: 181 calories; protein 4.8 g; carbohydrates 29.8 g; dietary fiber 2.7 g; fat 5.1 g; sodium 179.8 mg.
Susan Leifer is a Registered Dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse