meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar

My dear friend Susan from Carmel Valley is in Paris for a few weeks which presents a terrific opportunity to do a lot of walking, re-visiting some great spots in Paris as well as exploring new places we are curious to discover.  Susan has been here many times, so mercifully, these re-visits don't include the usual suspects (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc) which also means we get to skip those long lines that have returned to Paris along with the  marvelous Spring weather.

Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar and that other thing...

Talking Susan into going to one of my favorite markets in the 12th was easy, as was roaming the side streets in this interesting and artisanal neighborhood. 

Inside La Gazzetta at lunch, before the crowds arrived
When lunch time arrived we bee-lined it to La Gazzetta, which is never open on (Sundays) my usual day to shop at Marche d'Aligre.  Lunch was fabulous.

A crisp natural wine with a yeasty quality reminiscent of cider & great with the fish
We had line caught Merlin in the lightest broth with carrots and a most divine sliver of pickled beet, perfectly paired with a natural white wine as was suggested by our wonderful waiter. Clearly, Chef Petter Nilsson's Swedish roots contribute to his light hand and flavorful style, both in seasoning and presentation.

Line caught Merlin served with orange and white carrots and pickled beets
For me (though I enjoyed pretty much everything) the highlight of the meal was dessert: Poached rhubarb with mint sugar and strawberry semifreddo.  I love Rhubarb and this version was delicious.  The mint sugar was not only beautiful to look at, but complimented the rhubarb in such a way that the perfectly fine strawberry semifreddo was not only unnecessary, but ignorable.

Wishing there had been more Rhubarb and less Semifreddo
Rhubarb is an interesting and beautiful looking vegetable. Yes, it's a vegetable. The red (or pink or white) stalks are celery like in shape and very tart in their raw state, and though the large, bright leaves crowning the stalks may look like chard, you'll want to avoid those as they are poisonous.  

Red hued rhubarb waiting to be poached
Rhubarb acts as a true, old fashioned "Spring Tonic"; it's high in vitamins C and K, low in sodium, low in calories and just gets all the juices moving - as it were - so don't eat too much of it all at once. 

It's not cut glass, but all the same the color of poached rhubarb is delightful
Every Spring my mother would serve it plainly poached in a cut glass bowl (so we could admire the color) with shortbread cookies Sometimes she served it over vanilla ice cream which is pretty nice too. When I had Zabie's (1985 - 1995) the poached version was not so popular but it was quite reassuring when the latticed Rhubarb pies were a big seasonal hit. One year, having eaten so much rhubarb and fried green tomatoes over a few days (and nights), I broke out into a rhubarb colored rash from head to toe that took a week or so to go away.  It also took a few years for me to work up the courage to go there again (the rhubarb, not the tomatoes) but now, older and wiser, I know better than to eat nothing but rhubarb and tomatoes for three days in a row. I don't advise it.

The Raspail Organic Market is on Sundays 
But let's get back to the rhubarb at hand... last week, while visiting the Sunday Organic Market at Raspail, I couldn't help but notice there was some in the stalls.  Yes, it was early in the season and yes, it was the hot house variety - but who cares - it's rhubarb.  I bought it, came home and made my own version of La Gazzetta's dessert (minus the strawberry semi freddo).  It was really good and we ate it all (Susan helped).  Not one photo was taken so, darn, another batch needed to be made because I wanted to share this true spring treat with all of you.

- Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar -

Ingredients:  

For the poached Rhubarb:
- Rhubarb stalks     4.5 lbs or 1 kilo
- Granulated sugar   1 cup / 8 oz or 227 grams  
- Orange Juice - fresh    1/2 cup /4 oz or 12 mll

For the mint sugar:
- Fresh mint leaves - wash and pat dry - about 12
- Granulated sugar - 1/4 cup (2 oz  or  57 gram) 

Method: 

For the Rhubarb:
  1. Wash the rhubarb stalks and cut them in half lengthwise.
  2. Cut the stalk into pieces about 1 inch long
  3. Place the rhubarb in a 4 qt stainless or enamel pot you can cover
  4. Add the orange juice and the sugar in the pot.
  5. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, or until fruit is barely simmering which ever is shorter.
  6. Take the pot off the heat, stir the rhubarb gently and cover.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a non-plastic bowl and refrigerate.

For the Mint-Sugar:  **
  1. Place the sugar in the bowl of your (dry) food processor 
  2. Add the washed and dried mint leaves.
  3. Pulse until the mint and the sugar are completely combined and bright green.
  4. Add more mint if you want a greener, mintier topping. (I did)

Serving Suggestions: While not fully appreciating strawberry semifreddo, there is something to be said about the yummy contrast of something creamy with the rhubarb.  I happen to be a big fan of creme fraiche, though barely sweetened whipped cream works just as well.  My mom liked vanilla ice cream, and it does pair well especially served on a nice slice of pound cake or with a crispy cookie... we happen to like Speculoos, an addictive French (some say Belgium) cookie I wish I'd never tasted.  
  
** Good to know: This delicious mint & sugar blend will keep nicely in an airtight container in your fridge for up to a week.  Try it in iced or hot tea - amazing! 


Please let me know your favorite way of enjoying this very seasonal, and surprising, vegetable. 

A bientot,
Marie Z

Links you may find interesting:



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

am going out to the Rhubarb patch this morning for the first harvest of the year and will use the beautiful ruby shafts of glistening spring time energy to create your lovely recipe !

Marie Z said...

Wish I could join you out there in the patch... Rhubarb in the ground is a sight to behold!

Anonymous said...

Nice read Zabie, I always enjoy to hear how someone else approaches Rhubarb...I'm fond of experimenting with it, have you ever tried it as a chutney with mint and mango?

Doncha get the feeling these pleasures are so fleeting? That the world as we knew it is changing so fast, we may in our lifetimes see the extinction of some of our favorite fruits and veg? I know you are savoring each of these sojourns into the culinary treasures of the cities you visit and I love that you are sharing the stories and recipes, xxx

This is an ancient tradition you are carrying on, passing the inspiration of the bounty of our abundant mother earth, thru teaching the recipes and sharing the stories of what fundamentally structures our lives...how we eat.

lori Ann Kinder said...

I too am inspired to seek out these colorful stalks at the market this thursday......and love the thought of the mint sugar combo! What a treat it must be to roam the streets, exploring the wonders of Paris in areas less frequented by tourists. Please let me know your take on an old classic "La Coupole" (sp?) Memories of a late dinner there with haughty waiters, huge floral arrangements and large sumptuous booths.....and of course pretending to be Edith Piaff, lingering over a glass of wine and enjoying a cigarette which is definitely not a habit, but fun to partake in occasionally! So enjoy your site! Lori Ann