Let the Rhubarb (Dessert) Season Begin…
It’s starting to get real exciting at the markets here in Zürich. We’ve already had a few tastes of summer, and berries are making their first appearances, mostly coming from Spain and Italy. Best of all, rhubarb is now in the spotlight ! I noticed the long, green-topped, ruby stalks at the Coop (local supermarket) a few weeks ago, but as they were grown in hot-houses (and who knows where), I waited ever so patiently for the local crop to show. Swiss rhubarb is now at every stand at the markets and I can hardly resist buying some each time I go. Those bright stalks stick out of my market bag like a French baguette, and I hurry home to turn them into a quick pot of jam, or chop them up and throw them into the oven hiding beneath a mountain of buttery crumble topping.
Going to a friend’s place for dinner, I was of course in charge of dessert. My first thought was a favorite dessert of mine… lemon meringue pie. (Making it from scratch means I get to pile on the meringue as high as I want – very high !). Instead of the classic graham cracker crust, I thought about crushing homemade chocolate chip cookies. Or better yet, speculoos. During a weekend with friends in Lille, France, we had eaten speculoos in every which way – ice cream, caramels, pastries…, the highlight being “Fifi’s Ch’tiramisu.” She sent us home with a kilo of these dark, crisp cookies so I could recreate the desserts she made – but hey Fifi, I’m still waiting for the recipes !
And so, I went to the market with a speculoos crust in mind for my lemon meringue pie. Only, just before I could ask for a half dozen lemons… well, you know what caught my eye. There’s my buddy above, the always smiling Werner (whom you met exactly two years ago) picking out the brightest and best stalks of them all.
My lemon meringue pie became a rhubarb meringue pie (recipe at bottom of post) and I couldn’t be any happier with the results. A hint of caramel and cinnamon from the speculoos; and a very generous mound of whipped egg whites on top to balance the strong tartness and acidity of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the sugar it was cooked down in. I used the leftover rhubarb I had to make rhubarb strawberry jam, which was then mixed into yogurt and topped with Medjool dates. Here are a few more ideas below, and ways I’ll be using rhubarb over the next couple of months while it’s in season:
Rhubarb Curd Shortbread – food52
Rustic Rhubarb Tarts – Smitten Kitchen
Rhubarb Crumble Cake – Delicious Days
Cherry Rhubarb Crumble – Dorie Greenspan
Rhubarb Strawberry Ginger Crumble Tarts – Mélanger
The Jewish holiday of Passover begins Monday evening, April 18th this year – most widely known as the 8 days when we can not eat leavened bread, nor foods made with wheat, barley, rye, spelt or oats. Perhaps no coincidence that I was just thinking about lemon meringue pie; every year I drool over Eli Zabar’s signature ‘Mile High Lemon Meringue Cake‘ that goes flourless for Passover, and dream of it making an appearance on my holiday table. (I’ll keep dreaming… and drooling.) In addition to the traditional sweet items at my seder (coconut macaroons, mocha matzoh buttercrunch, Joyva marshmallow twists) and on the table all throughout the week (matzoh with salted butter and maple syrup, matzoh brei…), I’ll be making this rhubarb meringue pie once again… with a matzoh meal crust, of course.
To all who are celebrating, Happy Passover !! And tell us, what will you be making or serving for dessert ?
Mocha Matzoh Buttercrunch Ice Cream Sundaes
Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macaroons
Dried Fig & Pistachio Nougat (omit cornstarch to keep kosher for Passover)
Pistachio Coconut Macaroons (again, remove corn syrup for Passover baking)
Blackberry and Coconut Macaroon Tart – Smitten Kitchen
* Check out the “Matzoh-Paloozah” over at Leite’s Culinaria, with 100 ideas for what to do with matzoh. (Don’t miss #65-67)
Rhubarb Meringue Pie
Makes one 9″ / 23 cm pie
25-30 speculoos (180 grams) or 1.5 cups of crushed cookies/digestives/graham crackers
5 Tablespoons (75 grams) butter, melted and cooled
2 Tablespoons sugar
pinch of fleur de sel
Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Put speculoos in a large ziplock bag, close tightly and crush cookies using a rolling pin. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Press into pie pan with fingers, spreading until even on bottom and sides. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.
450 grams (~1 pound) rhubarb, roughly chopped
120 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (1/2 small lemon)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Rhubarb should be broken down and have a syrupy jam consistency. Pour into baked tart shell and let cool completely.
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
120 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
Reheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit). Beat egg whites with salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until meringue has stiff peaks. Top rhubarb filling with meringue. Leave in mounds with spikey peaks, or flatten and spread evenly. Important: make sure meringue covers the entire surface and meets the pan all around; no rhubarb filling should be exposed. Bake for about 10 minutes until browned on top.