Monday, May 22, 2006

Signs of the Season

This is the time of year I spend smiling. I hate winter. I really loathe winter. I despise being cold, and no amount of bundling up can keep me from becoming cold. So I welcome spring wholeheartedly. From the moment The Great Thaw begins until the leaves start to bronze, I spend a lot of time smiling. I truly enjoy being outside in the spring/summer. There is nothing like sitting in your backyard with the sun on your face and the scent of flowers floating on the breeze. Ah. And in addition to asparagus, nothing makes me smile like the tart perennial vegetable, Rhubarb.

When I was young, the rhubarb itself was a treat to be savored. There is nothing like a freshly picked stalk of rhubarb dipped in a bowl of sugar. I remember all the women at church who grew rhubarb bringing it in by the bagful, begging for relief from the attack of the rhubarb plants. In fact, I didn't even know until recently that a person could actually BUY rhubarb in a supermarket. Much like the zucchini invasion in August, it seems like everyone around here has at least one rhubarb plant. What is great about rhubarb, is that as long as you continue pulling off the flower blossoms, those rhubarb plants will grow and grow. You can pick rhubarb to your heart's delight once you have an established plant. And rhubarb is one of those things that you can freeze it without a fancy preparation. Simply slice it and put in a freezer bag. No other adornments necessary. The frozen rhubarb can be pulled out year-round for pies, breads, and conserves.

But the single rhubarb dish that stands out in my family is the Rhubarb Custard Bars I discovered a few years ago. Featured in a Cooking Light "Lighten Up" article, this dessert is required as the first of the rhubarb harvest comes in. I have changed a few things, but the core of the recipe is still there, and it is delightful. The base of these bars is a shortbread crust. A light rhubarb custard is baked onto the shortbread, and after cooling, a cream cheese flavored topping gilds the lily. Over the course of a few days, Andy and I will happily eat an entire 9x13 pan ourselves. So simple to make, this dish also makes a great potluck or picnic contribution.

You can find my modified recipe for Rhubarb Custard Bars in the Recipe Trove. Enjoy.

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