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Verses from my Kitchen: Roasted Vanilla Rhubarb with Honey and Spring's True Arrival

May 15, 2011

Roasted Vanilla Rhubarb with Honey and Spring's True Arrival

The last couple of weeks have played out in similar fashion and familiar disappointment. On consecutive Fridays the end of my week has greeted me with excitement and hope. Although the temperatures have been on a steady climb recently and we've experienced a bounty of warm weather and a surge in the colours familiar to the season we're enveloped in, my feeling is spring is only here with the arrival of one thing. Rhubarb.

Spring has finally made her entrance and is staying here for a while with the presence of rhubarb at the market. At least as far as I'm concerned. With that being my hallmark, I've been anxiously awaiting my local producer's haul from his farm to the table at his trusted place in the market square.

As the clock ticked away to close another week, I had been solely focused on making it to the market on time to grab a bundle of rhubarb. I knew some parts of the country had been able to grab some and I was growing more envious by the week. So when I pulled into the spot directly in front of the building housing my favourite local producers, I felt like I was about to meet a girl on a blind date. And just like some dates, I left disappointed.

"Any rhubarb yet," I chimed. I was met with a firm and equally disappointed, "No. But I'm hoping next week we should have some." I left disappointed but counted down the days until the following week. As I entered the door seven days later I was struck with a sense of deja vu. The same sequence of events unfolded although this time I was promised that one more week should do the trick.

So yesterday came and although I was as excited as the previous two weeks, I was ready for the same result. After all, the weather hasn't been incredible and it is still early May in a territory known for late May arrivals. Was I being too anxious? I have a couple months ahead of me so there would be plenty of time to experiment and eat local rhubarb. I guess after months of comfort food and hot soups and stews, I wanted the chance to work with one of my favourite ingredients that meant the birth of a new season.

This Friday unfolded just like the previous ones. I was rushing to make it before the doors closed and pulled back into the same spot I always seem to occupy and entered the door that's directly in front of his corner location. He knew what I was after before I even uttered a word and he pointed down to a box filled with fresh, ruby red rhubarb.  My eyes spoke a thousand words at that moment. And then he pointed to a bag he had behind the counter, kept especially for me in case the haul was sold out.

I left the market with a skip in my step. It was as if the clouds had parted ways and the sun drove her beauty right at me. I was so thankful and happy and excited. I headed home to wash my rhubarb and set it up for a good night's sleep. After all this time waiting, one more day wasn't going to hurt and it gave me the chance to think about the ways I wanted to work with it and also wake up today and start fresh. Bright eyes, sunshine and vibrant rhubarb stalks.

My Saturday mornings are often met in a ritualistic manner. No alarm, lazy beginning, a pot of coffee and breakfast. Today I snapped free from that routine altogether. We had our coffee and light bite to eat but that was after sleeping in. A long, stressful weak is only cured with rest and a lazy start. So by the time we sipped our cups of coffee, it was almost lunch time. Which meant rhubarb's spotlight was directly aimed and focused. 

I wanted the first recipe of the batch to be really simple but bouncing with flavour. I also love roasting fruits so I cut down my stalks to size and tossed them with equally fresh ingredients. A bit of orange zest and juice, some superfine sugar, splash of vanilla and a nice drizzle of honey. A quick roast that really brings out the tartness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the other ingredients. The house filled with the aroma of spring, dressed as fruit.

I love taking the finished rhubarb, soft but not mushy, and adding it to a bowl with some of that sweet syrup from the pan and drizzling it over top and adding a spoonful of creme fraiche over top of it all or some meringue. And other times, like today, I eat from the bowl as is. Fresh and bold and delicious. And worth the wait.

Definitely worth the wait.

From my kitchen to yours, happy spring eating!


At May 15, 2011 at 8:05 AM , Anonymous Kate (Kate from Scratch) said...

Fabulous! I have been anxiously anticipating this post as I've been following your tweets.

Glad you got the rhubarb and this is an excellent recipe for such a lovely find. I understand the market jubilation all too well.

Fabulous writing, by the way. I like your style, (for what it's worth). Keep it up! I look forward to reading more. :)

At May 15, 2011 at 9:18 AM , Anonymous Ethan said...

Look at you being all BFF with the farmers. I have a feeling you'll be well-taken care of this year!
Looks terrific!

At May 15, 2011 at 9:31 AM , Blogger Jan said...

When I asked for rhubarb at the farmers market, I was greeted with grumpy replies of "it's not ready" or "it's very expensive to grow" (which confused me because it seems to me rhubarb grows without any TLC....). It's really nice that they kept aside a bunch for you. And it's so pink! What I got last year was more green than pink.

At May 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM , Blogger Marnely Rodriguez said...

Love the simplicity of this dish!

At May 15, 2011 at 10:07 AM , Blogger A Thought For Food said...

I wish we lived near one another so we could share all of this food with one another. This is a great way to use rhubarb... I'm sure it mellows out its tartness. Beautiful post, Michael!

At May 15, 2011 at 10:59 AM , Anonymous Ken⏐hungry rabbit said...

Gorgeous color by way of not overcooking them. Beautifully done.

At May 15, 2011 at 4:26 PM , Anonymous Liren said...

I've been celebrating the arrival of rhubarb (and spring!) all week, too. It's amazing how some ruby stalks can make you so happy :)

At May 15, 2011 at 6:05 PM , Blogger Rosemary said...

can taste the tartness - any left? bring some to me
must be nice to have the farmers looking out for you!

At May 15, 2011 at 10:10 PM , Blogger Yadi I. said...

I've been seeing Rhubard recipes everywhere lately. They must be delicious!

At May 15, 2011 at 10:39 PM , Anonymous Tiffany said...

Beautiful pictures! (And I love that spring is a woman ;))

At May 16, 2011 at 12:25 AM , Anonymous Kate@Diethood said...

Oh wow, I'm jealous! I'm also anxiously waiting for the arrival of rhubarb at the market...tomorrow will be my third attempt...fingers crossed!!

At May 16, 2011 at 6:49 AM , Anonymous Jill@MadAboutMacarons said...

What gorgeous ruby red rhubarb! I wish we could get them as beautiful. For the moment, we've got very green ones. What a lovely way to cook them and the tartness with the honely sounds great!

At May 16, 2011 at 7:06 AM , Blogger Carolyn said...

I am a rhubarb fanatic and will go to great lengths to find the stuff. So I love this recipe!!!

At May 16, 2011 at 9:15 AM , Blogger Sippity Sup said...

Rhubarb so simply presented is quite an exciting presentation. Often it gets lost as an element in something. But not here. GREG

At May 16, 2011 at 10:53 AM , Blogger Michael Lewicki said...

Thanks for the comments! Sometimes simple really is better.


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