Do you know what background actors say to each other when they're supposed to look like they're talking without being heard? "Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. Watermelon. Rhubarb." Which is why, when a director wants more silent chatter in the background, she'll say, "More rhubarb!" She's giving direction, not asking for pie.
Rhubarb is an interesting plant. It's a vegetable, but it's generally treated as/combined with a fruit because of how tart it is. Strawberry rhubarb pie is probably its most famous incarnation. The strawberries are sweet, the rhubarb is tart, and everything balances nicely. Or so I've been told. I don't think I've ever had strawberry rhubarb pie. Until tonight, I'm pretty sure I'd never had rhubarb.
This Wednesday, at my local "fresh food market," I bought a bunch of rhubarb, weighing in at about two pounds. Tonight, I prepared rhubarb two ways: a rhubarb peach cobbler (recipe courtesy of Alton Brown and my husband's Good Eats 2 cookbook) and a rhubarb glazed pork loin (recipe courtesy of my red-and-white checkered Better Homes and Gardens cookbook).
I've never made a cobbler before, but I figured it couldn't be too hard. I've made fruit filling (this one was peach, rhubarb, lime juice, sugar, corn starch, and salt), and I've made pie dough (this one contained lemon zest, making it nicely fragrant). Unfortunately, flour is a finicky thing. I wasn't paying good attention. By the time I'd added five of the nine suggested tablespoons of water, my dough was already goopy. I added more flour, but it still didn't firm up the way I would have liked. So I improvised. I threw the whole mess into the freezer, which helped a little. Thankfully, the bottom layer of dough doesn't need to be pristine. The top layer is supposed to cover all the fruit, it seems, so I tried spreading my dough (with wet hands) on my Silpat, and then inverting it onto the pile of fruit in the pan. It still didn't want to come off nicely. So, as the name would suggest, my dessert is a little cobbled together. But still, it's delicious. So tangy and sweet and creamy, with a nice bit of pastry and a nice bit of fruit, which I served with vanilla ice cream. So incredibly good.
The main course was also delicious and smelled so good while it was cooking. The rhubarb glaze involved cooking chopped rhubarb in fruit juice concentrate until the rhubarb turned to mush, then mixing that with a corn starch slurry, dijon mustard, honey, and wine vinegar (I chose red, though the recipe didn't specify). The recipe didn't give a lot of instruction on how to roast the pork loin for maximum deliciousness, but thankfully I've watched enough cooking shows to know that I should season it well and sear it on the stove before throwing it in the oven. I then used the juices to cook some super colorful rainbow chard that we bought at the farmer's market this morning, plus I did my super creamy, super low-cal mashed potatoes (boil potatoes and garlic, drain, mash in low fat sour cream and buttermilk, plus salt and pepper). All together it was a lovely meal.
This meal required some food knowledge, some of which I had (like making a corn starch slurry instead of adding the corn starch and water separately) and some of which I maybe didn't (like how far to cook the chard--I may have gone too far). Since I am currently unemployed and any jobs that wouldn't make me tear out my fingernails look like they won't be available to me, I'm trying to figure out my life until we finally finally finally move out of this college town. I'm going freelance with the writing and editing, for one, though I know that won't earn a ton of money. But what to do with the rest of the time? One thing: I can teach myself how to cook. I have several good cookbooks to cook my way through, ones that explain the history and science of food, and carefully guide the cook through techniques. This might get in the way of my persistent plans for weight loss, though I can practice some self control. I also want to brush up on my French, my guitar playing, and keep up a fairly rigorous exercise routine (partially to combat the food I'll be cooking). So you'll start seeing posts marked "Cooking School" soon, in which I describe my efforts at mastering certain cooking techniques. It should be fun. I'm looking forward to it.