Never Rue a Rhubarb Recipe

Tears. It's almost the end of rhubarb season! So far I've whipped up Strawberry-Rhubarb Pudding Cake twice for friends and coworkers, but not yet: rhubarb pie, rhubarb sauce to pour over yogurt or ice cream, not to mention all the other ways I should try to use rhubarb since I consider myself a devotee. Have you ever used rhubarb in a savory dish? I've seen recipes out there, but can't give up on my sweet ones.

Saturday I feared the rhubarb window may have closed. This plant, after all, does not like heat. I crossed my fingers as I headed to Reston Farmer's Market where I met a rhubarb/herb/flower vendor a few weeks back (LadyBug Mountain Farm, I believe). His rhubarb is longer and greener than most rhubarb stalks I've seen, but cheaper than the grocery store's and obviously fresher! About a month ago, I was just starting my rounds of the market with my rhubarb-radar on, when I heard someone yell, "Rhubarb? You want rhubarb?" Joking about his shameless self-promotion later, he cajoled me into adding two more stalks to my heap on the scale, tipping it over three pounds. This Saturday as in the past, the two-foot stalks stuck out of my bag awkwardly as I poked my way around the rest of the market. Why does it look chic when a baguette peeks out of a shoulder bag, but scream "crazy cat lady" when it's rhubarb?

Brushing off the cookbook, Jacques Pépin Celebrates, which I've never used before because, let's face it: 1) He may be on public television, but he's still French and French food= complicated, and 2) This book contains directions for carving a melon swan (really?!), I decided on the Rhubarb Galette. In Italian, it's called a "crostata." In English, that translates roughly to "lazy person pie." I've made crostatas before, but the one big take-away from Pépin was to put a mixture of ground almonds, flour and sugar on the crust before pouring the fruit on. The almonds and flour soak up some of the fruit juices so the crust can be crusty. Genius. 

The 2-2.5 in. cuts or rhubarb seemed hefty, but once it cooked, the size made total sense.

Galette=A simple all-butter pie crust (pâte brisée) made in the food processor, top with raw fruit, roll-over the edges (Thank you, parchment paper.), two tablespoons of butter and just shy of 1/3 cup of sugar (seemed excessive at the time, but it was not).

 After a little over an hour in the oven, the rhubarb was tender and the crust was golden.


Peeeecan Pie!

I was sure I wanted to make a pie to bring to our 2nd annual Thanksgiving with friends. And when the bf said he had a certain fondness for pecan pie, the hunt was on for the best recipe.

The "perfect" recipe

My culinary practice is hampered--not at all enhanced!-- by my never-ending quest for the "perfect" (i.e. best-tasting, most-like-what-I-imagined, requires-no-special-trip-to-the-grocery-store, has-THIS-ingredient, etc.) recipe on any given occasion. This week I was seeking a pecan pie recipe without corn syrup. For one, pecan pie is hands-down always too sweet. Secondly, I eat enough corn products as it is--tortilla chips have become a staple post-work appetizer around these parts recently. Thirdly, how were ye olde Southerners making pecan pies before corn syrup existed? I rest my case.

America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated/Cook's Country

This conglomerate of busy cooking bees have captured my heart recently. Nope, don't get the magazine, but I read it when I find it on my mom's or friend's coffee table. I would be recording it on the DVR, if it weren't for the fact that I seem to have a sixth sense about when America's Test Kitchen is airing on public television.

I love watching those foodie nerds explain that cooking your chicken breast-side down at 405 degrees will garner the moistest meat or why adding baking soda to your paprikosh is essential to reducing the acidity...blah, blah,--but I love it! Sure, some recipes are waaaaay too complicated, but it sure is fun watching them do the work in their imaginary world of television, where 15 minutes of constant stirring over low heat is condensed into 10 seconds of nerdy banter between the research-obsessed chef and this guy:
Chris Kimball, editor of Cook's Illustrated and host of America's Test Kitchen

I have my own perfectionist tendencies when it comes to cooking. In general, I can be a pretty bad sport (e.g. canoeing the Kankakee River in 2004) when I realize I'm bad at something, which is probably why I haven't blogged in more than 6 months...but I digress. Back to the pecan pie.

My mom was dispatched to search for a recipe sans-corn syrup, and her search brought up many good options, but my heart was set on the "old-fashioned pecan pie" or "perfect pecan pie" from the various Cook's Illustrated websites. These sites are, to my respectful dismay, pay for content. A few months ago I had signed up for a free 14-day trial, which had expired, and my mom had done the same trying to locate my perfect recipe, but when we logged in with her credentials, I discovered that the Cook's Illustrated "perfect pecan pie" used corn syrup and the "old-fashioned pecan pie" was only available through America's Test Kitchen website. A quick sign-up for a free trial, and I had finally unlocked the recipe of my dreams: egg yolks, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, heavy cream, butter. The result: an almost custard-like filling, still super sweet, but with a distinctly maple flavor. I might reduce the maple or brown sugar next time, but that's just the perfectionism talking.

It was devoured too quickly to get a slice cross-section shot.

"Better than Chicken Soup" Soup

Despite the fact that spring has sprung, my birthday is around the corner, and I had spent a sunny Sunday watching a baseball double-header and eating ice cream, I whispered and pleaded my way through a day at work. I accidentally got to work early and took a nap on the couch in my classroom until a few minutes before students would arrive. This should have been my first warning sign. By 2 pm I was ready to cry every time someone made me use my voice (i.e. "Can I go to the bathroom?" "What are we supposed to be doing?" "Can I use the computer?" "What's our math homework?")

When I find myself sniffling, aching, or hacking, I make this soup. That is, of course, if I don't feel too bad to cook and don't just buy Whole Foods Chicken Noodle Soup, which, by the way, is worth every penny of the 799 it costs.

Whole Foods Market, The 'Better than Chicken Soup' Soup Recipe

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 6-8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh kale, julienned
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cut into 1/4" cubes
  • 2 tbs. grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (if you can handle it)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp. miso paste


  1. Over medium-high heat, saute onion and garlic in the oil for about three minutes.
  2. Stir in the turmeric and mushrooms, saute for another two minutes.
  3. Add the broth, kale, squash, ginger, and cayenne. Bring the soup to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the soup from heat. After it cools slightly, add the lemon juice and miso (adding the miso when the soup is too hot will cause the miso to lose some of its nutrients). Cover and let sit for five minutes before serving.

What makes it so beneficial?

  • Garlic: Helps increase the power of your immune system, while decreasing the duration of a cold.
  • Turmeric & Cayenne: These spices help support your immune spices. Plus, spicy foods, like cayenne, help clear sinuses.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms: You can also use reishi, maitake, and cordyceps. These mushrooms contain compounds that stimulate your immune system.
  • Kale: Dark, leafy greens like kale contain immune boosters: beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene.
  • Butternut Squash: This squash is rich with Vitamin A, which helps the production and activity of some white blood cells.
  • Ginger: The benefits of ginger are endless, but it is known for supporting your immune system.
  • Fresh Lemon: Hello Vitamin C! Vitamin C aids white blood cell production and healthy inflammation response. Vitamin C can be taken preventively to decrease the severity and duration of your cold.
  • Miso: This soybean paste contains probiotics, helping your body maintain healthy levels of bacteria.

It had been awhile since I made this soup (health!), so I didn't remember the kale or the butternut squash when I was at the market last night. They definitely make it a lot more toothsome, but it has all the same flavor without. And while the miso adds a nice touch, it's impossible to buy a container small enough for me to feel efficient about purchasing it, so I went without that too.


New Year, New Fruit!

It's been awhile, I know.

Happy New Year! Because even though it's almost Valentine's Day, the Lunar Near Year was only 3 days ago!

As I was grocery shopping for a big New Year's weekend full of celebrations, my eco-conscious friend strongly suggested I buy only fruit grown in the U.S. I agreed, though disappointed that our brunch-making wouldn't include berry speckled fruit salads. The grocery store didn't offer much but citrus. Have you any idea how much of our winter fruit comes from Chile?! So in addition to navel oranges and grapefruits we bought a pomelo. What is a pomelo, you ask?

Pomelo is an ancestor of today's grapefruit. Mine was rather green and oddly light-weight. It had an incredibly thick skin--between 1/3 to 1/2 inch--and a thick layer of feathery pith underneath. Peeling that white stuff off was like what I imagine pulling cotton balls apart might be like if pulling cotton balls didn't make the skin inside my ears tingle.

There was a lot of waste...

And then there was beautiful salmon-pink fruit, a bit dry (hence being oddly light-weight), but I personally enjoyed that it didn't run down my chin with juiciness and it was more bitter than sour. The larger than grapefruit "juice pockets" reminded me of the frozen grapefruit I ate in Copenhagen last summer.

I haven't seen any pomelos since, but if I did, I'd gladly spend another 15 minutes peeling one.