All week, you have been fascinating me with your comments on the giveaway post (where there’s still time to enter!), as you’ve shared who inspires you to cook and/or some teachable kitchen moments you’ve experienced. With the inspiration answers especially, I find myself mentally nodding my head with you, because it’s so true that I get pulled towards cooking via a myriad of sources—my family, other food bloggers, magazines, commercials, TV, something random someone says in the middle of the afternoon. And I think all these things are good to think about, especially so we can remember them on those days when we’re not so eager to cook.
But the inspiration for today’s recipes is something I hadn’t really thought about before, something that several of you said strikes you the same way: this beautiful time of year we call spring.
I have been marveling at spring this year: the buds on branches, the evening thunderstorms, the colorful flowers everywhere you turn. And, as it is with some of the best things in life, just when I think I can’t possibly appreciate it anymore than I already do, spring goes and surprises me again.
Like last weekend. I had decided to make a quick stop at a local French market that people seem to love on Yelp. I went in with $20 in my purse and a hunger for nothing special, and I came out, in 15 minutes no less, with two boxes of green beans, a pound of asparagus, two bags of mixed greens and a bunch of tall and red fresh rhubarb, for a grand total of $8.50.
Spring! Oh, Spring!
This might be a good time to recall that CSA I participated in last summer, which while I loved (and if you have a bigger household, it is really worth looking into), I also struggled with its sheer quantity of vegetables (organic! beautiful! but just too much for one person). That’s why this year’s plan is to shop at more farmers’ markets, to buy locally and seasonally but just less.
If Saturday was any indication, I’d say this plan is going to go very well.
When I came home and decided what to do with my inspirations, here is what I came up with for the rhubarb: a spelt lemon rhubarb cake and homemade rhubarb ice cream. The two recipes together used up the whole bunch, and since making them Sunday, I’ve had ready dessert all week. I even brought half the cake over to my friends’ house while we watched the almost-last episode of LOST Tuesday night.
(A brief moment of silence for LOST ending soon.)
The cake is tart and moist, with golden firm edges and a soft, near gooey center.
I love the way the flecks of red rhubarb contrast the pale color of the base, and I love how the combination of lemon and rhubarb make your mouth pucker, but the sugar in the batter balances everything out.
Plus, because this cake is made with spelt flour (which you may remember from those iced chocolate cookies recently?), you know it’s made with a grain that’s easier to digest and higher in protein than wheat, not to mention high in B complex vitamins.
(Sometime, I’d like to try making a cake like this after soaking the spelt flour ahead of time. But that’s a post for another time.)
The second thing I made was the ice cream, mostly because I love having homemade ice cream on hand. I used regular organic sugar rather than sucanat or raw cane sugar, again just because I had it on hand and need to use it up anyway. I’d be curious to see how those alternatives (or perhaps honey?) could work instead; sometimes with ice cream, it’s harder to get the right consistency with substitutions.
This ice cream starts with a base of chopped fresh rhubarb, cooked down with water and sugar, then pureed until smooth and fragrant. You chill it, add fresh cream and whole milk, and stick the whole mixture in an ice cream maker for a half hour.
In the end, it’s creamy and icy, tart and sweet, very refreshing, simple. I might have liked the tart rhubarb flavor to be a bit stronger, so next time I’d try reducing the sugar and/or adding more rhubarb (or maybe lemon juice?), but overall it was quite nice.
And while I finished the cake and while I keep scooping up ice cream after dinner each night, I’ve been looking out the windows, stepping into the sunshine, savoring everything there is to like about spring.
Spelt Lemon Rhubarb Cake with Cinnamon Crunch Topping
Adapted from WaitRose.com
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup almond meal (or ground almonds)
3/4 cup sugar (I had organic regular sugar to use up, but Sucanat would probably be better)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 1/3 cup chopped rhubarb
2 to 3 Tablespoons raw sugar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Greasing the tin/paper is not necessary. I was worried about this, but I didn’t need to be.)
In a large bowl, combine spelt flour, almond meal, sugar, salt, baking powder, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine melted butter and eggs; whisk in milk and lemon juice.
Fold the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring briefly until combined. Do not overmix, or the cake will be heavy.
Pour a third of the batter into the tin. Scatter over half the rhubarb. Add another third of batter, then cover with the rest of the rhubarb. Top with the remaining batter and sprinkle with the raw sugar and the rest of the cinnamon.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the pan’s edges. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before opening latch to release cake from pan. You can turn it out onto a wired rack if you’d like; I left it on the pan bottom and put that onto a plate.
Homemade Rhubarb Ice Cream
Adapted from Sugar Laws
4 stalks rhubarb, about 1 1/4 lbs
1 cup water
3/4 cup organic sugar
1 cup cream
1 cup milk (I used whole)
Trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks and chop them into half-inch pieces. Place the pieces in a saucepan with sugar and water on high heat, and boil for about 10-15 minutes, or until broken down into a jelly-type consistency.
Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan, and blend or puree in a food processor (or very carefully with an immersion blender right in the pan, if you’re like me) until smooth. Place the pureed rhubarb in the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours.
After the mixture has chilled, add cream and milk, and churn the whole thing in an ice-cream machine for about 30 minutes, or until thick and creamy. Serve immediately, and feel free to freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container. (Note: Personally, I like to take the leftovers out of the freezer about 15 minutes before I want to eat them, so the ice cream has time to thaw a little.)