Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler and Celebrating Summer Solstice at Restoration Farm

I am a rhubarb neophyte. Despite the dozens of blog posts that sing the praise of rhubarb each spring, and those sexy cover stories in Gourmet magazine, I’d never tried it. My first experience actually came just this past April, where it was served as the garnish atop an odd luncheon tart at an industry function. At least I think that was rhubarb.

However, being a member of a CSA is all about new culinary journeys, and when the magenta green stalks were included in the first distribution at Restoration Farm this season, I was genuinely excited by the possibilities.

Back in my kitchen, I find there are many things to appreciate about rhubarb. It slices beautifully, and the crisp stalks pack a powerfully tart punch. Chopped rhubarb can be frozen and used in baked desserts, and it pairs particularly well with strawberries. So I dice up about a pound and place it in the freezer along with a quart of strawberries picked at Restoration Farm. I have learned that with proper planning, nothing will go to waste – and it never hurts to have some fresh-picked fruit ready to go in the freezer.

On the afternoon of Restoration Farm’s Summer Solstice Pot Luck Dinner in the field, I prepare a Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler as my contribution to the meal. Preparing the cobbler with the frozen fruit is – dare I say it – easier than pie. The tart rhubarb and sweet strawberries combine into a glossy thick garnet-pink fruit filling that is blanketed with crumbly sweet biscuit dough.

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
(Adapted from “From Asparagus to Zucchini – A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce," Madison Area CSA Coalition, 2004)
1 pound fresh or partially thawed chopped rhubarb
4 cups partially thawed strawberries (when freezing, I combined the berries with ½ cup of sugar, and reduced the amount of sugar below to ½ cup)
¾ to 1 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 ¼ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut up
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons cream
Addition cream to brush biscuits
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine first five ingredients in bowl and toss fruit occasionally while you prepare the topping. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. Cut butter into bits and work into flour mixture. Combine sour cream and cream in small bowl and stir into flour mixture until just combined. Turn dough onto floured surface and gently knead 4-6 times. Roll dough into ½ inch thickness and cut into rounds with 2 inch biscuit cutter. Pour fruit mixture into buttered 9 inch square pan and top with biscuits. Brush biscuits with cream and bake until golden and bubbly, about 50 minutes.
At Restoration Farm, members arrive to celebrate the dawn of summer and carry all manner of dishes into the field - exquisite salads made with Restoration Farm greens, family recipes like Pastitsio and Spinach Pie, roasted vegetables, pasta salad and our friend George’s Iowa City Coffee Cake. It is a luminous late spring afternoon buffeted by soft breezes and the sky dappled with white clouds.
Head Grower Dan Holmes is resolute that farm dinners must occur as close as possible to the change in season. Indeed, there is something rhythmic and magical dining in the field on a glorious evening, partaking in food that has been grown on the farm, and enjoying a community meal together.

It is simplicity to be savored. We explore the berry patches and check on the heirloom tomatoes readying in the field up the hill. Rhubarb and strawberries are some of the early jewels of the spring growing season. As the sun sets on our farm dinner, we are more than ready for the rewards of summer.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

As always, the dinner at the farm looks like so much fun.

When my parents moved from New York City to a New Jersey suburb, we found a monstrous plant growing right in the middle of our back yard. Never having had a lawn before, but knowing what a lawn "should" look like, my father knew exactly what to do: he mowed that plant down. But it kept coming back, and eventually we let it be, and discovered it was a rhubarb plant. Being inexperienced with rhubarb, my mother cut it up and added it to fruit salad. Ugh! Too sour! Eventually she learned that rhubarb needs sugar, and eventually we adapted to life in the suburbs.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

The dinner at the farm looks like a lot of fun, sharing good food and visiting with friends. I'm a real newcomer to rhubarb. It's been featured on many blogs and I agree it's gorgeous, but I still haven't tried it. I feel ashamed to admit it too.

I loved your play on words about "easy as pie." And there's nothing better than prepared fruit in the freezer.

doggybloggy said...

your cobbler is making me covet rhubarb more than ever - I too am neophyte when it comes to this ingredient....

Sophie said...

Your cobbler looks sublime!! So apart & special too!
I love the sour cream in the topping,...yum!

The dinner at the farm looks like a lot of fun!

Kalyn said...

I'm not a big rhubarb fan, but I'd definitely sample this if I had a chance. I think I just might like it!

veron said...

I envy your experiences at Restoration farm, it sounds so fulfilling. Strawberry and rhubarb, a match made in heaven and your cobbler looks delicious!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I envy your experiences at Restoration Farm too. I like the idea of hosting a farm dinner just as the season approaches an inflection point, very poetic.

I'm not sure if I am correct, but it strikes me that I hear about rhubarb more on the east coast than west. This is a new ingredient to me as well. But I think it was great to have featured it in a cobble recipe, which is probably the simplest and most satisfying method to try rhubarb.

~amusette~* said...

I thought that I was the only one I knew that had never eaten rhubarb. Now your post confirms it :)

Happy Summer Solstice!

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Summer T.W!!!

I'm so surprised to discover how many people are actually rhubarb shy, yes, me too. There are so many recipes out there in blog land. Interesting...

I delight in knowing you are adapting so well to life at Restoration Farm. Gradually you have been embracing it and I can almost hear your enthusiasm in each new post.

Honestly, I can't think of a more rewarding way to greet the new season. I will have to give the "pie plant" a try one day meanwhile, I am certainly enjoying your cobbler. Thank you so much for sharing...

P.S. I don't know if you've heard but we're playing the Picnic Game at my blog once again this year. I know how busy you have been so I understand you may not be able to join us but I did want to personally invite you and I hope you get to see the basket of goodies when it's filled:)

~~louise~~ said...

I'm jumping up and down with excitement!!! You are so invited to the picnic T.W. and the letter L is yours. I can't wait to see what "lovelies" you bring:)

Tera said...

Oh TW, I do love the way you describe food...and the way you cook it too! Your cobbler looks lovely. Rhubarb seems like such an old-fashioned food. I've only ever cooked it once way: as a crisp from the Betty Crocker Cookbook my Grandma Miller gave me. The rhubarb's tartness is tempered by a crisp top crust of rolled oats mixed with brown sugar and butter. I'll make a crisp for you if you make a cobbler for me!

Mary said...

I, of course, love your cobbler with its combination of strawberry and rhubarb. It looks scrumptious and quite tempting. What I loved even more is the story about the solstice celebration at the farm. What a wonderful gathering of friends and neighbors. It sounds like you had a near perfect day. I know you enjoyed it. Blessings...Mary

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Look at that picturesque setting. The iconic red barn is fabulous. We saw so many on our recent trip in Idaho and Montana but it seemed they were always on the sides of highways with 75 mph speed limits, so few pics were snapped.

As for the strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, I adore it. Strawberries and rhubarb will always be best mates.

Lori Lynn said...

What a magical day!

Oh those biscuits atop the strawberry rhubarb look perfect!

Happy Summer T.W.!

lostpastremembered said...

Rhubarb is so darn good and the cobbler is perfect, TJ. I love the idea that you CSA members are involved in the process of growing and sharing the food. It is so much more real than a plastic wrapped package at the supermarket and so much tastier. I love that I am getting to know the farmers in Union Square and have visited a few on the farms upstate. Although I miss my giant garden I feel like this is the next best thing (that and helping friends with theirs). Thanks for the story and the recipe!

tasteofbeirut said...

I am like you were; a neophyte at rhubarb, still wondering what the big deal it about this thing; looks beautiful and I am impressed with the perfect evenness of your biscuits, truly an American art! I was thinking of making a cobbler with peaches, since we are getting a ton of them here in the mountain from our orchard; I guess I will have to wait to taste that wonderful rhubarb!