oh, spring

may lilacs

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.

Oh, 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.

Untitled

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!

rhubarb on table

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.

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THE coffee cake

coffee cake

Last weekend gave me other blessings beyond rest—things like roasted garlic hummus (twice! plus some roasted red pepper!) and a new cake plate I bought at the local antique store and, as a real surprise, an hour-long conversation with strangers who felt like old friends at a brunch in Eagle River Sunday.

Also, the morning that we left, just before Bailey and I walked through the forest one last time, I knelt by the same thick and leafy rhubarb plants that had provided the base for the crumble I made here recently, the one I ate with vanilla ice cream, after my parents brought back a bag of rhubarb Memorial Day weekend. I snipped a few dozen stalks, firm and strong, mostly green with flecks of pink at the bases, pulling away their leaves and arranging them in a white plastic bag.

rhubarb

rhubarb plants

rhubarb

As it turned out, the fruit was exactly what I needed to make this rhubarb coffee cake, or, now that I’ve eaten most of it, let’s just say THE rhubarb coffee cake. It’s honestly maybe the best I’ve had, so the definite article seems appropriate—beyond that, my mind gets all fuzzy and my tongue gets tied, and I’m all “mmm” and “wow,” scooping big crumbs from my plate.

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powerless against

rhubarb crumble

My mom is the kind of person who, after an extended weekend away in Wisconsin, returns home with gifts—individually wrapped caramels thrown in a white paper bag, a creamer set to match a teapot and, for me, a cookbook plus, by virtue of my confiscating them, a bunch of rhubarb, picked fresh from the garden. For this and many other reasons, I love this woman.

The closest I’ve come to growing my own rhubarb, beyond, I suppose, the minimal green thumb required of yearly tomato plants, is pulling leafy rhubarb stalks out of the ground in someone else’s yard, while being told exactly how not to use the fruit that is actually a vegetable. (The leafy parts are poisonous, but the pink stalks are tall and celery-like, easy to chop and turn into pies and crisps.)

But the important thing is, combined with enough sugar to balance its strong tartness, rhubarb is delicious. I love rhubarb. In fact, if you ask me to come over for a slice of fresh rhubarb anything, anytime, the answer will be yes. Always.

rhubarb

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