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Anyone for rhubarb pizza? May 10, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, recipes.
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Silence Dogood here. When our friend Ben and I first moved to Pennsylvania, we had never tasted rhubarb. We didn’t know anyone who grew it or even ate it. But around here, rhubarb is a popular early-season treat. At local farmers’ markets, Amish and Mennonite women sell rhubarb cake, rhubarb muffins, rhubarb crisp, rhubarb pie, rhubarb custard pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb jam, and rhubarb jam. It took us a while to work up the nerve to try it, but we figured if it was that popular, there had to be something good about it. Now we love rhubarb’s distinctive tart, tangy taste.

But I had no idea that rhubarb could also be used in savory dishes until OFB and I were at the nearby Emmaus Farmers’ Market a couple of years ago and I saw one stand displaying the plump red stalks. I drifted over to check them out. A woman was asking the farmer how to cook them, and he was explaining. Then he said, “But I like to eat them raw. I just cut them in pieces and eat them with salt.” I was saying that I’d never heard of that when his partner turned around and said “One couple buys our rhubarb and uses it to make rhubarb martinis.”

Oh, wow. I could see the possibilities! I could see rhubarb used instead of celery as a crudite with cream-cheese filling, the beautiful red stalks making a stunning contrast to the cream cheese. And how about rhubarb chutney or, say, a rhubarb margarita? Rhubarb jam might be the perfect glaze on roast pork or chicken, and strawberry-rhubarb jam could be used in a marinade or barbecue sauce.

But my imagination pales compared to the creative genius of the area’s #1 rhubarb fanatic, as I discovered yesterday in a profile of him in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call. (Check it out at www.themorningcall.com; look for “Rhubarb’s No.1 Fan.”) “It’s free. It’s in the backyard. I might as well use it,” explains Joe Sosta, the subject of the profile.

And use it he does, putting raw rhubarb on salads (again, chopped like celery), on a peanut-butter-smeared rice cake, or as a topping (with cinnamon) for sundaes. Mr. Sosta also includes rhubarb in stir-fries and tops eggs with sauteed rhubarb and mushrooms. But his most astonishing creation is the rhubarb pizza. 

Mr. Sosta doesn’t actually make his rhubarb pizzas. He takes the chopped raw rhubarb down to his local pizza joint and asks them to spread it on the pizza on top of the tomato sauce but under the cheese. Your local pizza parlor might not be so accomodating, but “semi-homemade” pizzas are now so easy to make at home that I’d be tempted to try a variation on Mr. Sosta’s creation.

I’d start with a whole-wheat pizza crust, spray or brush it lightly with olive oil, and bake it until almost-crisp. Meanwhile, I’d sautee chopped rhubarb, mushrooms, yellow bell pepper, and sweet onion (like Vidalia or Walla Walla) in extra-virgin olive oil until the mushrooms release their juices and the onion clarifies, adding salt, basil, and cracked black pepper to taste. (Leave out the basil if you want more rhubarb flavor to come through.) I’d add a splash of balsamic vinegar and cook until the liquid has evaporated, then top the pizza crust with the sauteed veggies and run it back into the stove until the crust is fully crisped, or top with mozarella and cook until the cheese melts. Slice, and serve with a salad, preferably with chopped raw rhubarb. 

I can see chopped rhubarb on one of those so-called Hawai’ian pizzas with pineapple and Canadian bacon, too. (In case you’re wondering why Canadian bacon would feature in a Hawai’ian pizza, apparently native Hawai’ians are actually addicted to SPAM. I can only assume that some cunning marketer decided that Canadian bacon would be a more respectable substitute.) 

I can also see chopped rhubarb subbing for celery in Waldorf and potato salads. Or for currants in scones or raisins in cinnamon-raisin bread. One thing is certain: I’ll be heading to our local farmers’ market in search of fresh rhubarb stems tomorrow. OFB, look out!  

          ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

Comments»

1. Alan from Roberts Roost - May 11, 2012

Thanks for the inspiration! We just split our rhubarb plants. We had 3, now we have 20. Finding ways to use it will be fun.

Wow, Alan! That’s a LOT of rhubarb! Thank goodness it cans well and rhubarb jam is so tasty! But I have a feeling rhubarb fudge is in your future. Brown sugar or white chocolate, I wonder? Hmmmm… maybe white chocolate strawberry-rhubarb fudge and brown sugar-bourbon rhubarb fudge…


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