Showing posts with label rhubarb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rhubarb. Show all posts

Friday, May 5, 2017

Spring Greens

Some years ago I was lucky enough to discover that the mistress of the real house that I use in the Orchard Mysteries, Olive Barton Warner (a distant relation), kept a diary for many years. The annual books are all in the local historical society, but I had a chance to copy two of them, including the earliest, written in 1880.

It’s a simple record of what the family (husband Eugene and daughters Lula and Nettie) did each day on a farm (110 acres) in western Massachusetts. The entries are short and matter-of-fact, but they provide some wonderful insights into nineteenth century life (although husband Eugene usually gets only a line or two).

The earliest volume reports that on Thursday, April 29th, 1880, the girls picked the first greens of the season, and Olive made two rhubarb pies, as well as a batch of raised doughnuts and a loaf of gingerbread and four other pies (she did a lot of baking! But alas, no recipes).

I thought it would be nice to honor her at this time of year, when Massachusetts fruits and vegetables are just coming to market. But I had to look up exactly what Olive might have planted that would be ready to harvest in April and May. Luckily I found a useful listing of seasonal vegetables in Massachusetts online. Here they are: arugula, asparagus, chard, fiddlehead ferns (I did give a recipe here for those—they’re available only for a short time each year), lettuce, nettles, new potatoes, parsley, pea greens, radishes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach, and thyme.

I don’t know what the weather was like in western Massachusetts in May of 1880, but it’s too chilly around here at the moment to think about making salads, even with fresh lettuce and such. That leaves me with . . . rhubarb, which Olive mentioned. Would you believe I have never cooked with rhubarb? But I guess it’s time to try. I looked through my cookbooks and came up with few recipes (although a lot of apple recipes suggest swapping out the apples and using rhubarb instead), and most of the cookbooks were later than Olive’s era. Then I remembered I had come upon an online collection of recipes from precisely that period, compiled from a Connecticut newspaper, and there was a recipe for baked apple pudding (and no rhubarb recipes!). So here is an authentic period recipe but with a bit of tweaking.

This is for you, Olive.

Baked Rhubarb Pudding


3 cups of stewed rhubarb
1/4 pound (1 stick) of butter
sugar “to taste”
six eggs, well beaten
six crackers, pounded and sifted

To stew your rhubarb: Dice the rhubarb. 

Cook in a saucepan over low heat with 3/4 cup sugar until soft (you might need to add a little water in the beginning to get things started).

When the rhubarb is well stewed but still hot, stir in half the butter (1/2 stick). Taste for sweetness and add additional sugar if needed. Let the mixture cool.

Beat the eggs, and add to the cold rhubarb mixture. Beat well.

Pound and sift six crackers. (Note: I have no idea what crackers were available in 1881. Soda crackers? Saltines? Carr’s Table Water Biscuits? I bought three modern kinds and ground them up. The water biscuits (left) came the closest, I think.)

Butter a baking dish. Put in a layer of crackers, then a layer of rhubarb. Repeat until your dish is filled, ending with a cracker layer. Dot the top with bits of the remaining butter (yes, half a stick). Bake for half an hour.

The original recipe didn’t happen to mention a baking temperature, probably because nobody had a thermostat back then. I guessed 350 degrees, or a medium setting.

It seems to have worked, because the custard set up nicely and the top was lightly browned (with a lot of butter still on the surface). And I’ve discovered that rhubarb tastes better than I expected.

What about you? Do you cook with rhubarb? Do you have any favorite recipes for it?

A Late Frost, the 11th Orchard Mystery, will be released in November.

The story takes place just a bit too early for any new fruits or vegetables to have appeared in Massachusetts, but plenty of apple varieties keep well over the winter if you keep them cool, so they're available for pies.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp #recipe @LucyBurdette

Right out of our garden!
LUCY BURDETTE: It's not every year that we are lucky enough to have both ripe strawberries and rhubarb in our garden. But this was one of the years, so how could I resist trying a crisp? The recipe started from Taste of Home, and they apparently found the first version on a Quaker Oats package.

Ingredients for the fruit part: 
3 cups sliced fresh rhubarb (this was about seven-ish stalks for me)
2 cups sliced strawberries 
Slightly less than 3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Mix the two kinds of fruit together in a large bowl and stir in the sugar and cornstarch until well combined. (I think you could also substitute blueberries for the rhubarb and end up with a delicious Fourth of July dessert.)

Ingredients for the crumble:

1/2 cup softened unsalted butter 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/3 cup flour 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

In a food processor or with a pastry cutter, combine these ingredients. Pulse until well mixed, and then sprinkle the crumble over top of the fruit in an 8 x 8" greased glass pan. 

Bake at 3:50 for 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the topping has browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream if you wish.

Oops, we did it again. We gobbled it down so quickly, I never remembered to take a photo until we were at this point... 


Lucy Burdette writes the Key West Food Critic mysteries.

You can follow Lucy on Facebook,
and Instagram!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt Cake #recipe @LucyBurdette

LUCY BURDETTE:  My mother used to make stewed rhubarb, which I was never crazy about--too slimy and no crunch for balance. However, it is rhubarb season and our one plant looks so healthy and gorgeous--I had to use it! I added in a traditional rhubarb sidekick--strawberries--and swapped out sour cream for nonfat yogurt. So it's not as dangerous to your waistline as it could be...

This cake is the result. I think even food critic Hayley Snow would approve.


2 cups flour
one stick butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar +2 teaspoons
half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup Greek yogurt, unflavored
2 cups diced rhubarb and strawberries

Mix the fruit with two teaspoons sugar and set aside.

Cream the butter with the remaining sugar.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each. Beat in the yogurt and vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients together and add them to the yogurt mixture, beating lightly.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

Grease well an 8 x 8" baking dish. Layer half the batter into the square pan. Over that, sprinkle half the fruit. Layer on the remaining batter, and the fruit over top. Sprinkle the remaining fruit on top of the cake.

Bake the cake at 350 for about 45 minutes. The top should be browning, and a toothpick stuck into the middle should come out clean. If the middle is still gooey but the top is getting too brown, cover the pan with foil.

This cake can stand on its own, or be served with ice cream. It's just as good the second day, or even the third, should you have any left!

When she is not blogging and cooking, Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries

Fatal Reservations, the sixth book in the series, will be in bookstores on July 7, but you can certainly order it now!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Spring's Best Strawberry Rhubarb Pie #Recipe

LUCY BURDETTE: Finally, spring in Connecticut: Last week it popped with glorious flowering bushes, trees, and flowers. Here is one of my favorites--a white lilac. Every time I pass the bush, I bury my nose in the flowers and inhale their glorious scent.

Spring also brings our rhubarb plant, which is going great guns, even if the rest of the garden is still shivering. And all that rhubarb screams for a pie.


One crust (you can purchase, but my father's recipe is awfully easy, and very good)

2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used organic canola)

Sift the flour with the salt. Measure the milk and oil, pour it into the flour, mix. Now comes the only tricky part. Divide the dough into two parts, about 2/3 of it for the crust, the remainder to use for some mini-project. Place the dough between two sheets of waxed paper and roll it to the correct size. Carefully peel off the top sheet of waxed paper, flip the crust into a pie pan, carefully remove the other sheet of waxed paper. Since you are filling the crust with something delicious anyway, it's perfectly acceptable to patch as needed and then crimp the edges. Refrigerate the crust while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

 Rhubarb/Strawberry Filling

3 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cups of strawberries, halved
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt

Gently combine all of the above ingredients. Let them rest while you mix up the topping.


For the Crumb Topping

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 tsp vanilla 

1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

In the food processor, pulse the flour and oats together. Add the other ingredients and pulse until the biggest pieces of the mixture are the size of peas.

Assemble and bake the pie: 

Add the fruit mixture to the pie crust and top with the crumb mixture. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature and bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes. I laid a sheet of foil over the top for the first 30 minutes so the crust wouldn't brown too fast.

Juices should be bubbling through the topping.

Let this cool to room temperature and serve with vanilla ice cream!

MURDER WITH GANACHE, the fourth Key West mystery, is in stores now. DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is coming in December....

 Follow Lucy on Facebook

And Twitter

And Pinterest.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ravishing Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake by Lucy Burdette

With the weather so warm this year, tis almost the season for rhubarb in our neck of the woods. We have quite a handsome specimen just outside our garden--in fact I bet this plant is at least fifteen years old and was transplanted twice from house to house. I’m not crazy for rhubarb–my mother used to stew it into a slimy, sinewy mass that didn’t hold much appeal for a kid. But I hate to see it go unused and I imagined there might be an easy way to make it into a tasty coffee cake.

My first attempt was from a newspaper column--it was delicious but it called for a package of dried strawberry Jello, which bothered me a little. (All that red food dye...) Then I fooled around with a recipe from and came up with just the right combination, easy and tasty, with ingredients I had on hand. We liked it well enough to repeat, only this time I added chopped strawberries and a crunchy oat topping. And vanilla ice cream on top. I give you this!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping


1 1/4  cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped

For the topping:
1/4 C. butter, 1/3 C brown sugar, 3 TBSP flour, 4 TBSP rolled oats

Cream the butter and sugar, and add the egg. Sift together flour and baking soda and add to creamed mixture with the milk and vanilla. Fold in the rhubarb and strawberries. Pour into greased 9 x 11″ pan. Blend topping ingredients until pea-sized with a pastry blender and sprinkle on top of the cake. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

This is one of the recipes included in the back of DEATH IN FOUR COURSES (coming in September.) Hayley's good friend Eric makes it when Hayley's mom is coming for a visit.  Because doesn't a homemade coffee cake cure just about all ills? Here Hayley's getting ready to attend the Key West Loves Literature conference and wishing she'd invited her mother another time:

"But right now, I had big-time nervous jitters about meeting my writing idols and trying to sound smart. And I wished that my Christmas present brainstorm for my mother had been something other than tuition to this seminar. She was completely thrilled to be visiting here from New Jersey, and who wouldn’t feel good about making her mother happy? But for one of my first major (and paid!) journalistic assignments, having my mom tethered to my side felt a little like looking through the oven door at a falling soufflé." From DEATH IN FOUR COURSES, NAL 9/2012.

For all the news on the Key West food critic mysteries, please follow Lucy on twitter or facebook. The new cover for DEATH IN FOUR COURSES will be unveiled on Sunday on Lucy's facebook page--please stop over and have a look--and click "like" while you're there:).