As I write this, friends, it’s the middle of May. You know what that means? It’s getting to be the best time of the year to tie on the old feedbag. Summer! With all of it’s juicy and delicious and flavorful bounties. I love tying on that summer feedbag! It’s time for fruits and veggies at the height of their deliciousness, at the time they were meant to be eaten. It’s an effin’ beautiful thing, peeps!
I’m in my mid 30s. I think a large part of the shift from eating seasonally in the U.S. to demanding to eat whatever you want whenever you want happened during my lifetime. We’ve become like this.
The original is so much better than the remake.
Anyway, I’m psyched that it’s changing back. Now don’t get me wrong, I used to be the type that would plan caprese salads in March for my birthday, but no more! Besides generally just jacking up nature and being overtly unsustainable, there’s the issue of taste. Some of the steps I’ve taken to get away from “whatever whenever” have me less spoiled but more demanding of taste. I’d rather forego some fruits and vegetables and wait for when they’re really good. Taste rules!
Let’s talk about the shitty taste of veggies eaten out of season, shall we? Now maybe you live in Cali. If so, that’s awesome. You can eat locally and seasonally all the time because your season is whatever. Now shut up. For the rest of us (VeggieFestivus!), winter and spring brings a real downturn in what is locally in season in our areas. So we go to the store. We buy tomatoes picked under-ripe and shipped thousands of miles to our area. By the time we’re cutting into them, they’ve been off the vine for weeks. Deliciousness: nill. Carbon footprint: gigantic.
Some things are hard to give up though, right? Citrus for one, and the deliciousness of a pineapple or a mango. I try to get my citrus organically and grown in California, which isn’t too far away. The rest, I use as treats. There’s an excessively cute passage in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (I love this book! Read it now! It’s the perfect time of year to read it and get excited about the coming months), where Barbara Kingsolver’s young daughter delights in the taste of a tangerine as a treat at Christmas. *Tears.* I don’t do what the Kingsolvers did (eat almost completely locally for one year), but I, 1) Wait till it’s good and (relatively) local, or 2) If it’s never locally good, I eat it as a treat. So yes, I eat mangos and pineapples sometimes.
Getting back in tune with the seasons doesn’t have to be difficult. You can be a strict locavore. You’re awesome. You can also eat seasonally and make efforts to be more local and more organic. Especially if you, like me, prioritize taste. The best way to do this is shop at your local farmer’s market, and to grow your own. A tomato grown when it’s supposed to be grown tastes a hell of a lot better than a tomato from the store bought in January. And you can grow a tomato, or most things, anywhere, if you do a little research and take on a few season extending tips. Even in Seattle! What’s cool is that you can grow most things in most zones, once you know a little about gardening and grow the varieties that best suit your zone. For what you can’t manage to get right in your garden (For me: cukes, dangblastit!), you can hit the farmer’s markets to get your stash. In Seattle, Seattle Tilth and good seed catalogs and master gardeners and the stands at the farmer’s markets selling the starts are a good place to start to find out what you can grow in the Pacific Northwest.
Personally, I’m gonna gorge on what’s in season every month of the coming summer. In May in Seattle, you’ll still see old faithfuls like braising greens and potatoes. But in these last few weeks there’s been more arugula (I’m an arugula FIEND, friend!) and wild greens, and there’ve been fresh radishes and carrots (those storage carrots in the garage have long gone to meet their makers). But then one day, you see that telltale deep red of rhubarb and you know the end of the dark period is near.
It’s about time for berries and tomatoes and basil and melons and cukes. I get excited about these things, ok?
I like Le Tigre’s version better than the Pointer Sisters.
Anyway, my garden is new. This is exciting because I get to make it what I want it. I’m gonna get especially gorgey with my homegrown items. But this year, the newness will prevent me from having those harbingers of summer: rhubarb and asparagus. As I’ve mentioned, I just started a rhubarb patch at the homestead. You’re supposed to give new rhubarb two years before you start harvesting. Boo hiss!
And we didn’t start any asparagus crowns yet. Once you plant an asparagus crown, you’ll get a few delicious stalks here and there for the first two years, and then in the third year you can start harvesting heavily. Next year we’ll get those crowns in, friends! Which means I’ll enjoy a large sidedish of asparagus I grew myself when I’m pushing 40. But boy, I bet it’ll be delish. Optimism! Anyway, here in Seattle, it’s time for rhubarb and asparagus. The always awesome Seattle farmer’s markets have rhubarb and asparagus in full force right now, if you aren’t growing it. I bet your FM does too! I’ve been going to town with rhubarb lately.
Have you had rhubarb? You should! Check out my pal Meg’s blog for a good low down on the awesome benefits of rhubarb. Rhubarb just gives and gives. Sure, just take from rhubarb, why don’t you. Take its vitamins. Take it’s minerals. I’m gonna talk about rhubarb’s awesome taste. Rhubarb is typically mentioned in the same sentence as strawberries, so the sweet of the berries can round out the tart of the rhubarb. Thus, strawberry rhubarb pie’s popularity. But the tart of the rhubarb is a beautiful thing! It can stand alone awesomely. Which leads me to this.
Rhubarb has some grandmotherly and wholesome connotations, donchaknow. I’ve become better acquainted with Garrison Keillor courtesy of Double S, whose Lutheran upbringing makes her tell stories like the one of being oft forced to listen to the Prairie Home Companion on long family car trips. As a kid I would been all like, boring! Now as an adult (?), I’m like, ah yes, rhubarb pie. You’re hogging all of the quilt, mother!
If you like sour food, you’ll love rhubarb. If you like sweet food tempered with just the right hint of sour, you’ll like rhubarb. I’ve come a long way from my days of gorging on entire packages of Sour Patch Kids till I could no longer stand my own tongue, but my love of the sour stays with me.
So this month, I’ve been fooling around with rhubarb. I made a rhubarb crumble that will knock your socks off! The sour balances the sweet of the crumble (mmm…crumble) so beautifully. Make this…while there’s still time! Here it is:
Awesome Rhubarb Crumble Bars!
Adapted from here.
Crumbly, delicious struesel topping:
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted.
1/2 cup brown sugar.
1/2 tsp. salt.
1 cup flour.
12 oz of rhubarb. I upped this from the original recipe, and I only used rhubarb but you could use a strawberry rhubarb mixture if you wish. And Double S (who LOVED this recipe) and I agreed, that even more rhubarb would have been ever better. I’d say going up to a pound of rhubarb would be great.
2 Tbsp. brown sugar.
1 cup flour, divided.
1/2 tsp. baking powder.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, pretty well softened.
1 cup powdered sugar.
1 tsp. vanilla. I also upped this from the original recipe. And I do the same with my chocolate chip cookies. You can never have enough vanilla!
1/2 tsp. salt. The original recipe was unclear about salt at this step, so I used the same amount as the previous step. It turned out delicious and I think the extra salt here made it better.
1. Do your prep work. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 inch square baking pan, then line it with parchment paper so that about an inch or so of the paper hangs over all sides of the pan. Then, butter and flour the parchment paper. Be sure to tap out the excess flour.
2. Make your crumble. Mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Then add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbles form. I love crumbles! Stick this in the fridge till you’re ready for it.
3. Make your cake. You’ll need three separate bowls. In a medium sized bowl, combine rhubarb, brown sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, whisk remaining 3/4 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
5. In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar until lightly fluffy, using an electric mixer. Beat in eggs, one at a time. I did this with butter that wasn’t adequately softened, so I just added an egg right away so that mixing was possible. It worked fine. Then, with your mixer on low, beat in vanilla. Then slowly add the flour mixture from step 4.
6. Get ‘er done! Spread the mixture from the large bowl onto the parchment paper in the prepared baking pan.
Then sprinkle the top of that with the rhubarb mixture from step 3.
Finally, the piece de resistance, crumble your delicious crumble onto the top of the cake.
7. Put it into your preheated oven for about 45-50 minutes. I went the full 50 minutes but then in the end thought it was just a smidge overdone. Remove from oven and let it cool completely before you eat it. Once cool, lift the bars out of the pan via the excess parchment paper, then cut into delicious squares.
As I said, I had some technical difficulties with my photos this week. I lost my pictures of Double S and I gorging on the final product! But when finished, your crumble will look like this, courtesy of the recipe I found at The Wives with Knives. Great blog name, by the way.
These were even better the next day. Enjoy!
I made these last week and Double S and I were pining for more of these already. But next we want to try somewhat of a healthier version, like an oat based bar with crumble topping. Anyone have any ideas? Stay tuned for more rhubarb!