I picked up my weekly share of produce from Alstede Farms yesterday.
Alstede Farms is a beautiful place to spend a sunny summer morning.
In addition to attractive flowers, there is a well stocked market full of locally produced wine, cheese, ice cream, eggs, milk and of course, produce. There are also several baby animal pens where families can learn about farm animals. I like feeding the baby lambs. I am a sucker for baby lambs.
It is early in the season so all of the "cold" seed plants are now being harvested. My 1/2 bushel share this week contained:
red leaf lettuce
green leaf lettuce
green swiss chard
hot house tomatoes
When I committed myself (and my money) to this season's CSA share I also made a promise to myself that this family would (to the best of our ability) eat everything that the harvest provided us. My family was not as committed as I but since I do the cooking around these parts they bought into the promise, albeit reluctantly.
And that means everything. Last night's dinner was not a stretch for the less culinary adventurous in my house. A great big salad of four lettuces, radishes and herbs with their choice of dressings and a roasted turkey breast. Sound good?
Accompanying this simple meal was the stretch course. Rhubarb Bread.
Having been born and raised in Pennsylvania, I am familiar with this red, tart stalk. It grew wild in many a garden of my youth and if a neighbor wasn't handing your mom a supply over the fence, the Egg Man always had some on his weekly delivery. (Yes, we had an egg man who made weekly deliveries. And a bread man and a milk man - each one would yell through the screen door their particular specialty, "EEEeeggs" one would sing, "Breeeeaaaad" another would call out. The milk man came at some ungodly hour of 2:00 or 3:00 am and just left the milk in a metal, insulated box that everyone kept on their front porch). Anyway....
Rhubarb is botanically classified as a vegetable; however, in the United States a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be called a fruit.*
My children, being the concrete raised kids that they are, have never heard of this vegetable / fruit and if truth be told part of their rhubarb ignorance is because I've never been a fan of the stewed rhubarb or strawberry rhubarb pies of my childhood. But a promise is a promise even if it is only to oneself and this is what I came up with for my rhubarb share:
Rhubarb Bread (with your choice of two toppings) Makes 2 regular size or one very large loaf
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
Combine sugar and orange zest, mix in the butter and set aside
Topping #2: (my favorite)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Combine sugar and ginger, mix in the butter and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter 2 "normal" size loaf pans or one over size pan. The batter should fill each pan about 3/4 full.
1 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup canola (or other vegetable) oil
1 cup buttermilk (1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar, set aside for 5 minutes)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup chopped, uncooked fresh rhubarb (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Combine the brown sugar and the oil in a large bowl and beat well (using an electric mixer). Mix together the buttermilk, egg and vanilla and add to the brown sugar mixture. Beat until combined. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and stir into the wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in the rhubarb and the nuts.
Pour the batter into the pans. Smooth top and sprinkle your choice of topping over batter.
Bake for 1 hour (2 loaves) or 1 hour 15 minutes for large pan or until tester inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out on a plate. Serve warm as a sweet and savory bread with dinner or with loosely whipped cream for dessert.
A Cook's Notes: I love crystallized ginger with this bread. The rhubarb melts into the bread and every now and then you get a bite of "tang" with the heartiness of the nuts, the sweet chewy heat of the ginger and the deep flavor of brown sugar. And the best part? My picky eaters never questioned the ingredients. They just ate it up. A lot of it. The orange zest topping is delightful too - adding an interesting citrus note to the bread. I would recommend using pecans if you are using the orange zest.
This bread is also delicious omitting the rhubarb completely; in case you don't have an egg man or neighbor handing you a supply over the fence.
And this morning? There was none left for breakfast.