I remember the first time I tasted rhubarb I was very little. I lived in Michigan and a neighbor grew it in their backyard. I don't know what possessed me to go over to the large stalks, break one off and begin tearing away at it like I just knew it would be delicious. The taste was too much for my baby tastebuds. Sour Patch Kids had nothing on this natural wonder.
I never ate it again until recently. The thing about rhubarb is it has its place in the culinary world but flying solo and raw might not be where it can really shine. This is where sugar and a glaze can be of assistance to an otherwise tart produce. Balance in food is key to a delicious combination of flavors and tastes.
Drawing you in with all the beautiful colors this salad presents is just another bonus where your eyes become acquainted with taste and flavor. When I cook, it's these little discoveries that inspire me in life. I can connect almost anything with sights, smells, memories, flavors and textures. So many times I've been at the counter, slicing, dicing, mixing and sauteing when I look up and am met with his magic smile that pulls my thoughts away from that thing I have to finish after I cook a meal - that smile that summons all the clarity in the world into that one moment. That smile is the first letter of the alphabet in the world of where dreams are made of.
When I wished for the life of my dreams - a family to cook for, a man to smile at, a child to love, this is where I'd land - right smack dab in the middle of preparing something simple - a dish that starts the parade of aromatic tastes and hordes of comfort foods to follow. It surprises me when my crew is willing to try anything I make and do it with an open heart. They love me and I live for their thoughts on new dishes I make. The boys had only heard of rhubarb. They had never experienced it in a dish.
There are many ways to feature this vegetable, and it can be eaten raw. Because of its tart nature, most often it's combined with contrasting flavors and/or sugar. I love this salad because it's just different. Later, I decided goat cheese would be a great addition to this unique salad.
2 stalks of rhubarb
4 sliced strawberries
2 sprigs of fresh basil, snipped
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 tablespoon water
Slice the rhubarb in 1-inch sections. Roast in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes.
In a food processor, combine the lemon juice, sugar and mix until combined. Slowly, add in the sunflower oil. Add in 1 tablespoon water and combine.
On a plate combine the rhubarb, strawberries and basil. Top with lemon vinaigrette and goat cheese. Serve.
Janet McCormick is the owner of Let's Eat Cafe in downtown Huntington. More of her recipes can be found at www.10-minutemeals.com.