Monday, June 15, 2009

Roasted Rhubarb and Cardamon Loaf

So just as I get ready to go to see Food, Inc., I wanted to post this recipe I've been developing.

It miffs me as to why every rhubarb and many cranberry recipes that I have come across call for orange juice in them. These two sour wonders are North East stalwarts and in my ongoing attempt to try and keep it local, as much as I can, I wonder, given the plethora of recipes that all make orange an intrinsic part of the recipe, is it possible to make something with these delicious fruits (well, yes technically rhubarb is a vegetable in the sorrel family, but we all eat the stalk as a fruit) that doesn't have orange in it?

Here is what I came up with: a dense, sweet loaf cake with lots of sour, sweet rhubarb chunks that surprise you every now and again with their wonderful pucker, the orange juice is replaced with the rhubarb sugar juice that you get when you roast these sour stalks with a little sugar.

Roasted Rhubarb and Cardamon Loaf

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Trim, rinse and cut into 2" chunks a pound to a pound and a half of rhubarb, toss with a generous 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar* and 6 green cardamon pods.

Place in a baking dish and roast for 25 minutes.

While the rhubarb is cooking, butter and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together in a medium bowl 2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder.

In a big bowl beat 1 large egg, gradually adding 1 cup organic cane sugar (I use my Kitchen aid for this but hand held beaters or a whisk all work fine).

When the rhubarb is finished cooking, remove the cardamon pods and discard them, using a slotted spoon remove the rhubarb chunks to a bowl, being careful to drain as much juice ff as possible.

Pour the "juice" that was expressed from roasting the rhubarb into a measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to the "juice"until you have a total of 3/4 of a cup of liquid. To this hot liquid add 2 T of unsalted butter (it's quicker if the butter is room temperature).

Stir until the butter has melted.

Starting and ending with the dry ingredients alternately with the juice/water/melted butter add to the egg/sugar mixture until well incorporated.

Fold in 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (optional) and the reserved rhubarb spoon into the prepared loaf pan.

Place in the middle of the preheated oven and cook for about an hour or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before inverting.

Serving suggestions:

Spoon over each slice some stewed strawberry/rhubarb compote with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

After a couple of days if you still have some left you could make an awesome trifle with this as your base, alternating fresh strawberries with a heavy custard, whipped cream, stewed rhubarb...the options are endless and you didn't even have to use an orange after all!

* the rule of thumb is 1/2 cup of sugar to 1 pound of rhubarb, I used a pound in developing this, but being the rhubarb fiend that I am thought it could have more! Which is why I say 1-1/2 pounds in the recipe.

The cake is quite sweet so if you do add a more generous amount of rhubarb I wouldn't add a full 1/4 cup extra of sugar as the ratio above would suggest, maybe a tablespoon or so as the sourness of the rhubarb is essential to adding contrast this easy, local, loaf recipe.

Of course I need to point out my own inconsistency here, cane sugar is hardly local, but I feel like each little gesture helps and by not adding citrus to this it is one less thing that has to be flown in from afar.

Maybe next year I need to grow sugar beets?

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