Honey-Roasted Rhubarb and Favorites, Lately

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Hey friends, it’s been a hot minute. I’ve recently had an epiphany about ‘keeping the main thing the main thing,’ and for me right now, that’s successfully taking care of myself through peak weeks of marathon training, and then balancing summer term of grad school with my newish job, in that order. Everything else has been largely set aside for now unless it fits into the above. Which means I’ve made variations of chocolate walnut banana bread for three weeks in a row as end of the week baking therapy, made a lot of lovely but quick meals, taken significantly more restful moments and reincorporated naps into my life, but also haven’t done much else or shared here.

Below are a few favorites from the last couple weeks and months, and a lovely quick recipe for honey-roasted rhubarb, which tastes great as an add-in to a seasonal green salad, stirred through morning porridge, or simply spooned alongside some nice yogurt.

 

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to read: 
Plant Spirit Totems by Bloom Post
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
Long days but learning so much in all my classes

to eat, drink, and imbibe:
Ginger-Turmeric Kombucha
Strawberries, and cardamom. also, rhubarb.
Flower Essences by Sophia Rose

to listen: 
Medicine Stories Podcast, but especially the episode with Sajah Popham (#17)
Lauren and Jesse’s new podcast, which is great for all sorts of life advice, but especially for athletes with questions.
Nicole Antoinette’s discussion with pro-runner Collier Lawrence. So much good stuff including goals, suicide prevention, and more.
A good pathophysiology review of the (lots of science!) involved in depression, for all you fellow science nerds.

to pause in awe and simply take in:
Early morning sunshine, through the leaves
Gifts from a lifetime friend who lives on the other side of the world

 

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Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
When adding the finished rhubarb to a seasonal salad, I find it goes great with a mix of delicate and hardier greens, and alongside early season snow or snap peas, pea shoots, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing. That’s just one variation of how this can be incorporated into a savory meal, and partly why I tend to err on the side of less honey, to let rhubarb’s natural sour-tart flavor shine through. 

1 lb. rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch slices
1-2 Tbs. honey, as preferred

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scatter the rhubarb in a single layer in a large baking tray, then drizzle over the honey, and gently mix it all together.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender, giving it a stir halfway through. The rhubarb pieces should keep their shape rather than cook all the way down.
  • Leave to cool slightly before serving.

Blackberry Crumble

Blackberry Crumble

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If there is one thing I love to learn about others, it is their preferences for and memories involving food. I’ve shared much of my history with food and cooking in this space already but this month, The Recipe Redux asked us to stir up some of our earliest culinary recollections.

Instead of rehashing how it all began, I’m reposting a very slightly edited version of what I wrote then with a little note about this month’s recipe at the end.

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“Go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you.”
                                                     – Letters to a Young Poet, Rainier Maria Rilke 
 
 
 
The truth is, the beginning is blurry. When I squint back into the depths of my childhood, my thoughts were not long off of food. I would take cookbooks to bed at night, scrunching my eyes into the flashlight-shadows, long after my sister had demanded I put our shared, bunk-bedded room into darkness. Looking back at the shy, quiet, anxious little person that I was then, I recall only that I felt most at home in the kitchen. I still do.
 
It began then, I think, with playdough. My mom mixed up homemade playdough. I remember seeing the recipe on a worn index card in her gray metal recipe box, a box that to this day holds her most cherished recipes. There were two recipes in that box that were beyond intriguing to my child-mind:  elephant ears and playdough. The first was something that I had never considered could be made outside of a hot, steamy, trailer-kitchen at the county fair. The second was the only non-food recipe that I’ve ever known my mom to have on hand. I must have asked her, and she mixed up a batch for us. I don’t remember much after beyond the whirl of the mixer blades, and the fact that my mom brought me into the kitchen, handed me the measuring cups, and taught me fractions.
 
 
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From that moment when I learned to turn on the mixer, to scoop flour into the measuring cups, to follow recipe instructions, up to now, nearly 20 years later, I’ve been most at home in any place surrounded by food. It fascinates me in its cultural symbolism, use as a socio-economic tool and weapon, as a medicine to heal, as a draw to family gatherings and entire holiday celebrations, and most importantly, in its most simple form as basic sustenance for the hunger in all of us.
 
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In those simple childhood days, those most-remembered foods symbolize the dearly loved and oft-hated. My favorites from that gray box included our neighbor’s recipe for honey-cinnamon swirl rolls,  my mom’s homemade bread, and leftover-oatmeal cookies with just the right amount of spice. There was my favorite breakfast, dad’s “stinkbug porridge”, which was a simple concoction of raisins and brown sugar. And then the fresh milk from our cow, Betsy, with flakes of cream floating amongst my morning cheerios. I had to plug my nose to get the milk down after staying an extra hour at the table gathering the resolve to drink it. Now looking back, I realize what a precious experience to have been raised in a place where our milk came right from the cow.

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 In this new season and new beginning of sorts, I am reminded of how I am drawn to food as a means of communication and connection. I am reminded of the beginning, how I learned in the kitchen with my mom and the whirl of the blender blades that are still in her cupboard today. I am reminded that food is special, and that when I go into myself, as Rilke suggests, the only answer I come back with is, yes, I must create.
 
Though I no longer enjoy thick slices of my mom’s bread, or partake in flecks of cream floating in cow’s milk, I hold in my heart and in my cooking a focus on good, simple, nourishing food, in whatever way it can be most enjoyed. I am looking forward to this season to come, and the creations it will bring.
 
 

 Now tell me, what is one of your first memories in the kitchen?

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Blackberry Crumble, serves 4-6
As I indicated above, I began creating with baked goods, and having grown up in an area rich with agriculture and with grandparents that often brought fruit from their own or nearby orchards, baking frequently involved fruit. Crumbles or crisps were an often chosen and easily made dessert that were devoured in a matter of spoonfuls. This one involves blackberries because today happens to be a special someone’s birthday and William requests blackberry desserts annually (or one of its many cousins in the form of boysen or marionberries). Hence, a late September blackberry recipe makes its way into this space nearly every year.

For this recipe, there are a couple options in the way of sweetening and using the oil. For the berries, opt for one tablespoon honey if you’re working on limiting sugar consumption, or don’t tend to eat much sugar, like me. If on the other hand, you do eat sugary sweets regularly, like William, opt for two tablespoons honey and you’ll likely be a little more satisfied. Likewise, we tend to find coconut oil a bit too overpowering in crumbles and pies (even refined coconut oil), and prefer a more neutral flavored oil like canola instead so the blackberry flavor can shine through. I know some particularly like the coconut flavor, so if that’s more your speed, opt for coconut oil instead.    

4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbs. honey (see notes)

Crumble Topping:
2 cups rolled oats, gluten-free if necessary
6 Tbs. sorghum flour
1/4 cup canola oil or melted coconut oil (see notes)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the berries in a baking dish and toss with vanilla, lemon juice and honey.
  • Prepare the crumble in a separate bowl. Start by mixing oats, sorghum flour, salt and vanilla.
  • Then add the canola or melted coconut oil and honey. Use a spoon or your hands to mix until combined. With your fingers, crumble the filling evenly over the berries.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges and the topping is golden brown.

summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes

summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes

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Even though I am no longer a teacher, there is something about the beginning of the school year that gets me excited for a fresh start, eager minds, clean hallways, and a newly decorated classroom. And so it was when I walked the hallways of the elementary school I work with this last week. Even though I’ve been there all summer with my high school students managing the school garden, the teachers are back now and the place is slowly coming to life after its summer slumber. There are fresh new beginnings in the air.

At the same time, the internship I created for my students ended this week, and so marks the last time I will work with this particular summer program, as I too am beginning to close the chapter of my work in school garden education. It has been a journey and a learning experience, and I can say on the other end of three+ years, I’m glad I trusted my intuition in taking the risky position that is my job, as it didn’t start out being financially sustainable and there was much jostling back and forth with funding cuts and uncertainty in the in-between. And so it’s kind of ironic that now on the other side, I am choosing to walk away from the work not having the future months figured out, but with an awareness that I won’t know what comes next until I take this step.

Beyond all learning and experience I have gained from the actual work, maybe the biggest lesson I have learned since stepping in to the “real world” of work, is how to trust that feeling of needing to close the book and walk away, even as it has been enjoyable, safe, comfortable, and I’ve been part of an amazing and cohesive team.

 

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With all this in mind, I think it is fitting to share a recipe here that was first schemed up in the school garden surrounded by all the vegetables we were harvesting that day and adapted in the moment according to my students’ preferences. Each week of the summer, they have been cooking in the garden one afternoon and providing samples to their CSA customers utilizing whatever produce is in abundance that week. In this late summer season, everything is going full throttle and so this salad has a little of everything. There are random little pops of sweet like ground cherries balancing the creamy leeks and crunchy beans. There were a few hazelnuts leftover from another week that provided more texture, directly opposite of the squishier quality of the eggplant and zucchini. And there was a lemon in the fridge that needed to be used and from it, we all enjoyed the lemon-Dijon dressing. All in all, this became a showcase of all the summer vegetables and everyone that tried it–whether high school student or adult–loved it.

 

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summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes, serves 4

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

extra virgin olive oil

2 small leeks, thinly sliced

1 lb. green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 small zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 cup ground cherries

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped or halved

Dressing:
2 tsp. Dijon mustard, preferably coarse grained

2 tsp. honey

juice from ½ a large lemon

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

sea salt & black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan, add quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and the leeks. Cook, stirring regularly until leeks are golden and crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. At this point, stir in the summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the green beans. Cook a bit longer – just until the beans brighten up and lose their raw bite and the squash softens.
  4. Turn out into a bowl and stir in the ground cherries, tomatoes, raisins, hazelnuts, and cooked quinoa.
  5. Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard and honey. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and whisk for about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper according to taste.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed.