Thursday, June 16, 2011

French Friday with Dorie: Roasted Rhubarb


I grew up in Utah, not too far from Salt Lake City where the elevation is a mile high and this time of year the temperatures reach 80. When I was back home 2 weeks ago one day barely passed 50^ and others struggled to rise up to 60^.  But this year is unusually cold.   Rhubarb thrives in that climate; it is like zucchini in our former upstate New York gardens where there is always an abundance and even excess.  Creative cooks and bakers try to think of new ways to use it, but most of this beautiful leafy green, red stocked vegetable goes unused.

As a kid I loved to pick rhubarb and chew on the stocks.  I remember taking it in the car  and chewing on it, sometimes with salt, all the way to wherever we were going.  It was tart and made my mouth pucker, but it was in the same category as green apples and I loved it.
Now, living in hot Arizona, where this delightful vegetable does not grow, it is hard to find and many natives have never heard of it.  (Including the check out clerk at the store where I did finally find it.)

When we first moved to AZ I planted a vegetable garden.  I’d always had a nice garden with a wide variety of produce.  I found rhubarb plants at the nursery and since they were selling this plant I figured it must grow in our climate.  Not so.  I planted it in the winter, which in AZ is like spring everywhere else, and my 4 little bushes were doing well until the temperature climbed and stayed over 100^.  One by one my little plants shriveled up and died and I learned first hand that rhubarb and our desert heat do not mix.                                  

Back in Utah, my dad had just picked a beautiful bunch of rhubarb as we were driving up to the house.  My mom asked if I had a good rhubarb pie recipe and I do.  Two springs ago I came across a lovely bunch of rhubarb in a farmers’ market where the sellers traveled into town from cooler areas.  I had used Williams-Sonoma’s recipe that can be found online for a wonderful strawberry rhubarb pie with a crust very similar to Dorie’s buttery version.

We unpacked the car, and I got to work.  It felt good to stand and make 3 delicious pies after the long 12 hour drive.  And of course, my parents were elated.  The pies turned out great and when my extended family came to see me, we enjoyed pie and ice cream while we chatted.  It was lovely and my mom, who is in her mid 80's and just got a pace maker was thrilled to have me make pies for her to share.

But for this week’s Dorie Rhubarb recipe, I had a very hard time finding any rhubarb...I should have brought some back from Utah with me.  I have been looking in all the grocery stores and markets since I learned that during this month of June I had been assigned to roast rhubarb.  I have never roasted rhubarb, so I really wanted to give it a try.  As a youngster my favorite recipe for this vege was stewed with lots of sugar, dessert style. And like Dorie suggests, it was served over cake or used as a topping in other ways.   I’m guessing that the roasted rhubarb will be similar to my childhood favorite of stewed rhubarb except that the stewed is more watery; otherwise the ingredients are similar.

After running into 4 different stores today I finally found rhubarb but compared to the fresh Utah variety, the specialty store had old, going slimy, leafless stocks that looked like they had been sitting in the vegetable isle for at least a month.  I dug through the entire section and found enough to make a pound and a half that were usable and I figured I’d have to trim off at least a half pound of grossness to have a pound of OK product.  Sad.  But even sadder was the price. $8.49 a pound for this rotting produce.  Unbelievable.  I’m sure it was shipped in from somewhere just waiting for someone like me who would be desperate to try a special recipe and buy it.
I also found a package of frozen rhubarb in this same store and also purchased that package just in case the “fresh” was too awful to use.  I only looked in the freezer section because I was being helped by a fellow FFwD friend who made the suggestion....I’ve never looked for this vege in the freezer before, just grew up with so much fresh that it never crossed my mind.

I washed and trimmed the rhubarb and put it into the fridge for use the next day.  Unfortunately, the next day it did not look really great...not good enough to roast and actually eat. And the frozen does not excite me.  So, I’ve decided to make pies, again, because they were so good in Utah, and because I need to bake 39 pies for a church party which is in 2 days.   (And today was “only” 107^ here in Gilbert, AZ so I’m pretty crazy to want to spend a couple of days baking.)  I get myself into these things, but I enjoy it.  Hubby is setting up tables and chairs, in charge of the program and cleanup, helping decorate, and I am in charge of food for 150 adults.  I’ve assigned out all the dinner, but I’m making dessert and it will be pie.  So, I’ve not completed today’s assignment.  I plan to visit my Utah family again in August when a nephew is getting married and I’m doing his reception food.  Never ends.  But it is all fun.  And everybody just loves the wedding food/dessert lady:).  So while there, I’ll get some great fresh rhubarb and I’ll try roasting it after seeing how all your rhubarb roasting turns out.



  1. Wow it looks so yummy. Great Job.

    Happy Baking,
    -Kristina K.


  2. Your pies look just lovely. My mother used to make amazing pies, but somehow I have yet to master them.

    Best of luck with your 39 pies!

  3. Kris, Your pies look delicious and Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is one of my favorites. I can't believe how much you paid for it…I wish I could have shared what is growing in my garden! Great post! Have a lovely week-end!

  4. Your pies look great. I'm in AZ too, though I had a little more luck. Though, by the time I actually bought it, on it's way to as sad as your.

    Wonderful that you got to visit your family and share your baking.

  5. love that you put this in a pie...yum, yum!

  6. Wow. Did you seriously have to pay almost 9$/ lb for sad produce? You are a trooper! I am with Kathy - I wish I could have shared my stash with you :-)
    The pies look great. Good luck with all that baking.

  7. Beautiful pies and beautiful crust. I'm sorry you had such nasty produce offerings...ugh.

  8. Yay! I'm glad you made a rhubarb and strawberry pie! It looks fantastic! I think I may make a strawberry pie or crumble this weekend as my rhubarb is all gone! Great post and photos!

  9. Wow- 39 pies ? You are amazing. Love the background story of your history with rhubarb- your reference to the green apples helped me put in perspective what this new to me ingredient might be like. I am going to aim for truly red rhubarb at the next purchase and Nana is already out looking for it. I can not believe she made it to 5 different stores today and still came back empty handed. I have grimaced when I saw the price of 4.99 a pound here but will shut up after reading your post. Lovely job, as usual. Good luck with the pies !!

  10. You know, I used Dorie's suggestion and roasted my rhubarb in my Pyrex pie dish and I was thinking while it was roasting that all it needed was a pie crust and it would make the most delicious pie. I'm so glad that you actually did it! How you find the time to do all that you do - you are remarkable! I am lucky to get two pies made at one time. :) Have a great weekend!

  11. I live in Phoenix and found really nice looking rhubarb for $2.89 lb at Sprouts. It won't be there long, maybe I should go get some more this week. Your pies look awesome!

  12. I love your pies, would love a piece right now for breakfast!
    I promise to never take finding fresh rhubarb in the market for granted again, how sad that your rhubarb was so expensive and yucky;-(

  13. What gorgeous pies! I love strawberry rhubarb pie. Hopefully you can get your fill of Utah rhubarb next time you're there.

  14. I've loved reading all the memories and stories people have about rhubarb! I have none! But created a great one this week!
    And my head is spinning at the thought of 39 pies you are going to bake!
    Great looking pies!

  15. Beautiful pies! Strawberry-rhubarb pie is my absolute favourite. I'm lucky enough to have a rhubarb plant outside my door. I hope you have the opportunity to get some good, fresh rhubarb at some point this season. I always freeze some for pies, tarts or cakes later in the season. It wouldn't be nice enough for roasting, but does just fine for other uses.