My god, will you look at that rhubarb?! It’s a good thing I got married in August instead of June or I would have been some wacko bride carrying a bunch of rhubarb down the aisle instead of a bouquet of flowers.
I bought the rhubarb and the garlic scapes solely because they were pretty. I’m not really a shining example of frugality and practicality at the market, but I do know how to get a really good deal on toilet paper.
The fudgies ate all my vegetables!
I know that in high season, if you don’t get to the market by 10 you’ll miss out on some good stuff. But there are a lot more people up north now than there were a week ago, and this morning we missed out on almost all the stuff! When we got to the market a little before 10, my favorite farmer was already sold out and packed up. Everyone else just had lettuce and spinach, which I still have left from last week. The good news is that quite a few farmers had strawberries, and there’s still a bit of rhubarb around.
The other good news is that all these visitors generate revenue that ultimately ends up in my paycheck, so I’m happy to share my farmers with them. Still, I guess my Friday nights should consist of a little less Buffy and a lot more sleep so that I can get my lazy ass to the market earlier.
Sometimes I have good ideas. This is not one of them. It is a good idea — it’s a fantastically brilliant idea, really, but I can’t claim it. This recipe is a gift from the Google gods. I wanted to do something savory with rhubarb for a change, and a chef friend had recently mentioned how delicious rhubarb is with fish. But I’m a skeptic at heart, even when faced with overwhelming expertise, so I googled just to be sure. Judging by the sheer number of search results returned, rhubarb is indeed a proper companion to fish.
But the thing about Google is that it still takes a human to cut through all the crap. For there, amid multiple ho-hum recipes for fish with rhubarb sauce, was this delicious little gem of a recipe, which I promptly re-created in my own kitchen. “Rhubarb salsa?” Chris lamented, sporting his best yuck face. But rhubarb salsa is bright and tart and assertively zippy, and it’s difficult to maintain a dour demeanor in the face of such brazen freshness, particularly when that zippiness is paired with sweet, crispy cornmeal-coated strips of freshly-caught Lake Michigan whitefish. So difficult that I suspect we’ll be eating this at least once a week for as long as rhubarb is around.
For the salsa
1½ cups rhubarb, diced
¼ cup red onion, minced
2 tsp. lime juice
¼ cup finely minced scallions
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne
Fill a medium bowl with ice and water; set aside. Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the diced rhubarb, blanch for 10 seconds, then scoop out with a slotted spoon into the ice water. Place red onion in medium bowl and drizzle with lime juice. Remove rhubarb from water batch and blot with towel to dry, then transfer to clean medium bowl. Add rhubarb to red onion and toss with scallions and jalapeño. Whisk vinegar with honey until combined, add to salsa mixture and season with salt and cayenne. Refrigerate.
For the tacos
¼ cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2/3 pound whitefish, skin removed, cut into 2-inch strips
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
6 5-inch corn tortillas
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves
Heat oven to 200°F. Place the cornmeal in shallow bowl and season with salt and cayenne. Dredge the fish strips in the seasoned cornmeal. Add 3 Tbsp. oil to a large skillet and sauté the fish over medium heat, turning, until golden and crispy, one to two minutes per side. Remove to a heatproof dish, and place in the oven. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden brown and slightly caramelized.
Warm the tortillas in a cast iron skillet about 30 seconds on each side; hold in warm oven if necessary. When ready to serve, place two or three pieces of fish in the center of the tortilla, top with some of the caramelized onion and finish with about 2 Tbsp. of the salsa and a sprinkle of cilantro. Serve any remaining salsa alongside.
I didn’t intend to buy more rhubarb this week, but my favorite farmer ran out of ones so we agreed that I’d just take my change in rhubarb. Pretty good up-selling strategy. Think he learned that in farmer school? Also, DUH, I should have taken my change in extra morels!
For much of my life, the approach of summer signalled a season of blissful slackness — a languid three-month-long stretch free of responsibilities and obligations and schedules. Then I became a grown-up, a grown-up with year-round responsibilities and obligations and schedules that, because I live in a resort town, seem to multiply rather than diminish as summer approaches. Fortunately, there’s gin for that.
This time of year, at the pinnacle of pre-summer stress, there’s also rhubarb. And, as we’ve already established, gin and rhubarb are really quite lovely together. For this year’s version I added another layer of aromatic astringency with a few sprigs of rosemary. The sweet, piney notes of the herb mingle with the subtle botanicals of gin, softening the sharp edges of bracingly tart rhubarb to create a cocktail that’s smooth and dry and delightfully assertive.
And if your equally assertive husband insists that you quit worrying about things and spend the afternoon sitting on the deck sipping gin while the newly opened apples blossoms sway delicately in the breeze, I suggest you listen. I also suggest that you don’t embrace the relaxation thing so fully that you find yourself five cocktails in at 4 pm, but that’s entirely up to you.
2¼ cups water, divided
2 Tbsp. + ½ cup sugar
½ cup fresh rosemary leaves
3 cups diced fresh rhubarb
6 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1½ cups good gin
Place 1 cup water and 2 Tbsp. sugar in small saucepan and simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add rosemary leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh sieve, pressing on leaves to extract liquid. Cool syrup to room temperature, then chill for 4 hours.
Puree 1¼ cups water, ½ cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice and rhubarb in blender. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Squeeze the remaining rhubarb pulp to release as much liquid as possible. Chill the juice for 4 hours.
Mix the rosemary syrup, rhubarb juice, remaining 5 Tbsp. lemon juice, and gin in a pitcher or large jar. Pour over ice and garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired.
Leftovers (ha!) should keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
This the third week of the farmer’s market and the first week there was any fresh produce for sale. Here’s what I bought. Not pictured: a cookie for Chris because, as he explained to me, “I came to the farmer’s market with you. And I didn’t complain!”
My to-do list is kicking my ass. And not in the normal boy, am I busy way, either; it’s kicking my ass in more of a it’s 10:00 — do you mind if we just have pickles for dinner? way. My point here is that it’s been a busy week — the sort of week in which last week’s clean laundry languishes unfolded at the foot of the bed and dust bunnies gather in corners to plot their eventual takeover of the living room and minor concerns like eating and sleeping slip to the bottom of the priority list. After a week like that, a girl really deserves a cocktail. Or seven. Preferably in a warm, sandy spot near a large body of water, but the important thing is the cocktail.
On an unusually warm afternoon in the summer of 1980, my sister and I wandered into a little thicket of shade created by enormous ruffly leaves curving out from bright red stalks just tall enough for little girls to play beneath. Elated at such a discovery, we raced home to collect our buckets and shovels and then, for reasons intelligible only to little girls, spent the rest of the afternoon happily digging in the cool dirt amid those leafy stalks. I’m not sure if this memory has stuck with me for nearly thirty years because that patch of shade was such a lovely place in which to play or because of the boatload of trouble we got into when our favorite digging spot turned out to be the rhubarb patch of a neighbor lady whose Navy husband significantly outranked our father.
I live in the sort of place where a casual mention of your fondness for rhubarb is likely to land you in somebody’s brother-in-law’s mother’s field with an armload of rhubarb stalks and an abiding gratitude for midwestern neighborliness, which is how I came to have several quarts of diced rhubarb in my freezer. Naturally, I would have preferred the rhubarb to end up in a pie rather than in the freezer, but Chris can conceive of few things more repulsive than cooked fruit and I can’t eat a whole pie by myself.
I can, as it turns out, eat quite a lot of hand pies by myself, and I can eat them in the car on the way to work. For breakfast.