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Rhubarb is the fresh face of spring

Recognized by its large, green elephant ear-like leaves and longstalks, rhubarb is often called the harbinger of spring, as it is theearliest vegetable — along with asparagus — to push its way out of theground.

Recognized by its large, green elephant ear-like leaves and long stalks, rhubarb is often called the harbinger of spring, as it is the earliest vegetable — along with asparagus — to push its way out of the ground. Depending on region and climate, stalks of fresh, field-grown rhubarb can be found from May through to July.

Rhubarb and Strawberry Bread Pudding

If your garden or local market has fresh rhubarb, here is a recipe to try. Bread cubes should be slightly dried out. Lay out in single layer on baking sheet to dry slightly.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups (750 mL) chopped rhubarb (1/2-inch/1 cm pieces)
1/2 cup (125 mL) strawberry or raspberry jam
3 eggs
2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar
2 cups (500 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
5 cups (1.25 mL) cubed day-old French or Italian bread, in ¾-inch (2 cm) cubes
1/4 cup (50 mL) sliced almonds

METHOD:
Combine rhubarb and jam (microwave jam a few seconds to liquefy it slightly); set aside.

In large bowl, whisk eggs with sugar; whisk in milk and vanilla. Stir in bread cubes. Stir in rhubarb mixture. Pour into lightly greased 9-inch (23 cm) square baking dish or pan. Sprinkle with almonds.

Place pan in slightly larger pan; pour boiling water into large pan to come two-thirds up side of smaller pan. Bake in preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until puffed and golden on top. Serve warm.

Rhubarb Tips:

• Selection: Choose firm stalks that are fresh and crisp. If plucking from your backyard, twist off stalks rather than cutting. Pick slender stalks, one stalk should yield about ½ cup (125 mL) chopped and avoid eating the leaves as they contain a potential toxin called oxalic acid.

• Storage: Wrap rhubarb in damp paper towels to keep the stalks moist, and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days. For longer storage, rhubarb is a breeze to freeze; just chop it into pieces and place in airtight freezer bags.

• Preparation/cooking: Wash rhubarb, then slice or dice according to recipe. It tastes sweeter once cooked, so add a minimum of sugar before cooking, then add more to taste after it’s fully cooked.

– Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.

 
 
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