6.17.10 Victoria, Victorious

Strawberry preserves 790 xxx
photos by george billard
Rhubarb abounds at the moment. Driving along the little country roads out here, you see many a luxuriant patch with broad, lofty, ruffly green leaves and the occasional gorgeous flower soaring above. The markets are full of the celery-like stalks in shades that range from rose to raspberry. I'd been feeling a tad deficient for having produced such adamantly green rhubarb, but then I looked up the variety we planted and it turns out Victoria rhubarb is meant to be green! Naturally, it's not the one most commercially favored, since everyone is attracted to the gaudy red stuff, but I'm now quite proud of my green stalks with the discreet hint of pink at the very base. It tastes just as wonderful, and I find the color makes a lovely counterpoint to the vivid strawberries with which it's so often paired. Food52 continues to be an inspiration (even though my strawberry-fennel ice cream, nominated last week, did not win—#$@$%#!), and I think you'll love this simple but flavorful poached rhubarb that I've topped with strawberry preserves that deliver a bit of heat. Make it now, before all that beautiful red (or green) rhubarb has seen its best days.
Stewed rhubarb 790 xxx
TEA-POACHED RHUBARB WITH CARDAMOMadapted from Chez Danisse on Food52serves 6 1 pound roughly chopped rhubarb (about 3 cups)Juice of 1 small lemon1/2 cup raw honey1 tablespoon rapadura sugarpinch of sea saltSeeds of 6 green cardamom pods crushed well with mortar and pestle2 bags Earl Grey tea steeped in 3/4 cup just-boiled water for 5 minutesPre-heat oven to 350 degrees.Place honey and tea in a small saucepan over medium heat, and stir until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and ground cardamom.Place rhubarb in a medium casserole dish. Pour over honey mixture and stir to coat. Sprinkle sugar and pinch of salt on top.Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir and bake an additional 15 minutes. Fruit should be tender.Cool and serve with warm or room temperature strawberry-chile preserves and a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche.STRAWBERRY-CHILE PRESERVESfrom Amanda Hesser on Food52makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups 1 pound sweet, ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if larger than a walnut in its shell)2 New Mexico chiles, or more to taste1 cup sugarJuice of 1/4 lemonPlace the strawberries in a heavy, medium-size pot. Remove the stems and seeds from the chile (no soaking is required) and discard. Roughly chop the remaining dried chile flesh, and add it to the strawberries. Pour in the sugar.Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil -- as the fruit begins to juice, the sugar will melt. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook for about 1 hour. You'll want to give it a stir every 10 minutes or so -- do so gently because you want the strawberries to stay intact and essentially candy. Taste it every now and then to make sure there's enough chile heat and flavor for you -- if not, add another!As the preserves cook, use a spoon to lift off any scum that rises to the surface. The preserve is ready when the strawberries are shrunken and lightly candied, and the syrup has thickened but is not so thick that it's like jelly. (The best way to test it is to pour a little bit onto a plate and let it cool before checking the consistency.) Stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.Refrigerate any leftover preserves.