The rhubarb is a vegetable most often used as a fruit – in much the same way that the tomato is a fruit used as a vegetable. But unlike the ubiquitous tomato, rhubarb sometimes stymies American cooks. What’s to be done with this briefly available, bitter, even poisonous plant?
Well, there’s pie. In the nineteenth century, rhubarb was so strongly associated with pie that it was commonly called pie plant. And then there are the many variants of pie: crisps, crumbles, buckles. Rhubarb is so very assertive that it was not much eaten until and unless it could be sugared; prior to that, it was prized only for its medicinal properties. But other fruits have a mellowing effect on rhubarb’s harshness. Apples, especially, soften it without transforming its flavor. Personally, I believe that it’s a crime against strawberries to pair them with rhubarb – and it’s underselling the rhubarb as well!
For anyone who has had any contact with me for the last month, the idea of a lemon kefir tart shouldn’t come as a great surprise. I have, after all, spent that time all but obsessed with kefir, stashing mason jars of room-temperature milk all around the house, and watching gleefully as my grains — the live active culture — transform said milk into a thick, sweet, sour, sometimes slightly carbonated beverage.
What has set me down this path is a recent trip to New York, to visit Hana and her husband. Walking into their tiny Manhattan apartment, two things struck me almost at once: the happy, healthy, gigantic kombucha mother gurgling away in a jar on their counter, and the jar of kefir, just about done fermenting.
This year, I’m doing my best to get into the holiday spirit — or at least to curb my inner Grinch. I have resolved to stay away from those end-of-the-year triggers that traditionally set me on edge: the malls, the peppermint lattes, and those supermarket-side bell-ringers whose infernal tintinnabulations plague my shopping*. And I’ve decided instead to embrace those customs that actually do inspire cheer.
So I’m making my list (and checking it twice). I’m baking desserty treats filled with warm winter spices. I’m listening to Jethro Tull’s “Ring Out, Solstice Bells” (beware, video!). And I’m mixing up experimental batches of eggnog.
Yes, I said eggnog.
Happy Superbowl everybody! If anybody cares about my prediction for the big game, here it is: the Boston Bruins are going to beat the New York Knicks, 5-3 in double overtime. I kid, I kid. The truth of the matter is that I know nothing about football. I don’t know who the players are. And […]