Last weekend I cleared my garden out in preparation for my summer crops. Along the way, I discovered my long neglected rhubarb plant, stubbornly flourishing beneath a bushels-worth of overly-aggressive oregano vines. Ah, rhubarb, you champion. Year after year, you get forgotten in the back of my potting box, yet year after year, you continue to flourish. I don’t deserve you, rhubarb. You’re too good.
Last year at this time, after going through my annual déjà vu (too much oregano- oh hey rhubarb, how you doin’?), I made Jamie Oliver’s recipe for “Rhubarb, Pork & Noodles”. Using the dessert-centric red vegetable as a fun play on ‘sweet and sour sauce’ opened up a whole new world for me- a world where rhubarb, one of my all-time favourites, could be used in savoury cooking, not just your standard pies (although please, let’s not stop with the pies. I do so love them.)
It’s surprising it took me so long to branch out like this. After all, I love other sweet pie-favourites in savoury cooking:
- Strawberry Bacon Pizza with Fresh Basil, Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
- Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Mango, Avocado & Sriracha-Hoisin Drizzle
- Jerk Chicken Tacos with Peach-Mango Salsa, Pickled Red Onions & Spiced Yogurt
- Mango, Bacon & Feta Pizza
Surely rhubarb, arguably the least ‘sweet’ and most ‘tart’ of them all would be prime for a savoury cross-over. Turns out, rhubarb definitely swings both ways.
We’re having a stint of hot, summery weather in Vancouver these last few weeks, so salads for dinner actually seems like a great idea for once- quick, light and versatile.
Contrary to popular myth, rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw (it’s the poisonous leaves you want to steer clear from), however, they’re sharply sour. Dipped in sugar or maple syrup, the crunchy stalks can make a fun treat, but on their own with some lettuce leaves, they still pack too much of a punch. So- not poisonous- but I would still recommend roasting the rhubarb for this. Roasting will soften the stalks a little and bring out their sweetness. They won’t be overwhelmingly sweet, but they will mellow considerably, making them much for salad-friendly.
What goes well with sweet and tangy? Goat cheese, of course. Not to mention the fact that any salad with cheese is automatically upgraded in my mind anyway.
Now we’re working on texture. I like a mixture of seeds and nuts, since it really rounds out the texture of the salad, and provides a myriad of little flavour bursts- pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. If you’ve got hemp hearts, poppy seeds or sliced almonds, they would also work great here. Use what you’ve got to make yourself a crunchy salad topper medley.
Finally, a vinaigrette to bring it all together. Fresh herbs, a little vinegar (not too much, since your rhubarb is already acidic), a touch of oil and a spot of mustard. Light, clean and simple, with just enough fat, salt and acid to bring out the natural flavours in the ingredients you’re using.
|Green Salad with Roasted Rhubarb, Goat Cheese & Tarragon Vinaigrette|| |
- Roasted rhubarb:
- 2 large stalks rhubarb, cut on the diagonal into ½" pieces (~1 cup)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 pinch each of salt and pepper
- 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
- 1 tsp honey mustard or other mild mustard
- 1 tsp maple syrup
- ~150 g mixed greens (5 oz.)
- 1 tsp finely shopped shallot or 3-4 chive blossoms, broken up
- ~1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
- ~1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- ~1 tsp sesame seeds
- ~ 1 tsp hemp hearts
- ~110 g goat cheese, crumbled (4 oz.)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss rhubarb slices in maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes then remove from oven. Rhubarb should be glossy and slightly softened, but still hold its shape.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients.
- Place mixed greens in a large salad bowl. Toss with vinaigrette to coat. Top with rhubarb, shallot, seed/nut mix and goat cheese. Serve immediately.