Monday, May 11, 2009

First Fruit of the Season (sort of)

Now I realize that rhubarb is actually a vegetable, not a fruit, but for my purposes, during this cruel period of warm weather and limited fruit (of the non-apple variety, anyway), it's a fruit to me. I suppose the fact that something that looks like a blushing bunch of celery is my one bright spot on the sweet end of the harvest spectrum is a little depressing, but the darkest moment is always before the dawn I suppose.

Anyway, I picked up a ruby-tinted bunch the other day and have been debating about what to do with it ever since. I was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's rhubarb cobbler recipe, but on a Sunday afternoon following a weekend trip making biscuit dough seemed like more than I could handle.

I have been seeing loads of rhubarb compote recipes lately (I guess I'm not the only one on a rhubarb kick these days), but I felt my first rhubarb concoction of the season should be a little less austere than a compote. Although I have to say that it does sound as though it could be a fortifying breakfast food, perhaps a nice accompaniment to yogurt. And now that I've mastered the yogurt making process, well, it sounds like compote will be my next rhubarb recipe of the season.

But back to my first. As I was flipping through my trusted Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, I came across a recipe for rhubarb tart with orange custard that appealed immensely. As I mentioned before, dough production was out of the question for me, but I amended the recipe to suit my lazy mood. And thus, rhubarb baked in custard was born.

I swapped out a few ingredients that I didn't have for ones that I did, and I must say the result was quite satisfying. Light, tart, sweet, bright...every positive adjective that you could come up with to describe a summer dessert. And yes, I realize that it is not yet summer, but today I wanted it to be, so in my kitchen it was.

Rhubarb and Custard
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

one bunch of rhubarb (once trimmed and diced, mine weighed about 9 ounces)
1/3 cup sugar
two big pinches of ground cloves
zest of half of a Valencia orange
1 egg
1/4 cup full fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup whole milk or cream
1 tablespoons orange liqueur

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan (you could use any baking dish you want of this approximate size). Wash the rhubarb, peel if it is tough and stringy, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Toss with sugar, cloves and orange zest and let sit for 20 minutes.

Beat the egg in a measuring cup, add the juices that the rhubarb has released. Whisk in the yogurt and then add enough of the milk or cream to make 1 cup of liquid. Add orange liqueur.

Distribute the rhubarb in a single layer in the baking dish, and then pour the custard over the top. Bake until set and slightly brown around the edges, about 45 minutes. Serve at room temperature.


The TownhouseLady said...

LOVE Rhubarb. Mom used to grow it in our backyard growing up. she'd make preserves, compotes, tarts, pies, jam. You name it. It's still one of my all time favorites.

Giovanna said...

I made this tart last year for the first time--and completely forgot about it until I saw your post this morning. What a good idea to make it without the tart shell as well...

Laura [What I Like] said...

TownhouseLady - you are truly one of the lucky ones! My family was pretty into making jams and the like, but rarely from anything grown on our own!

Giovanna - Ah, we must be kindred spirits! I adore anyone who owns (and uses) that cookbook.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Oh my God, that is my favorite dessert...I haven't had it since I lived in England as a child, though. They would serve it once a week at the fancy school I went to...I've never tried it with yoghurt, but your description is making me salivate. I must try it...

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