EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 26, 2013

Breakfast with rhubarb

Pat's Kitchen
Patricia Altomare

---- — Another spring tradition, rhubarb’s ruby red stalks bring a freshness to the breakfast table.

This is the season for special occasions — graduations, bridal showers and Mother’s Day — where something a bit special is called for at breakfast, and these pastel-pink smoothies are appealing as well as delicious. Pair them with a warm slice of orange-rhubarb bread, and you have accomplished “something special” indeed.

I always look forward to rhubarb season as it is very popular with you, readers, who obviously welcome rhubarb season as well. Over the years I have received so many e-mails and letters sending me your favorite rhubarb recipes, or requesting a certain recipe from me.

In the past five rhubarb seasons, my column has included the following recipes — strawberry-frosted rhubarb cookies, rhubarb cake, rhubarb-pecan muffins, rhubarb orange-walnut jam, rhubarb sour cream squares, blueberry-rhubarb crisp, rhubarb delight dessert and rhubarb cheesecake. A few of these recipes came from you, and were very much enjoyed by my family and myself.

From your letters I know how many of you grow your own rhubarb and are always looking for a new way to prepare it. For those of you who would like to grow your own, buy just a couple of plants, put in a sunny spot, and you will enjoy it for many years.

Rhubarb plants can be transplanted successfully. My father transplanted his six rhubarb plants to Cape Cod when they retired there, and those plants lasted another 13 years.

Plant rhubarb roots 2 to 3 feet apart in rich, well-drained soil, worked to a depth of a foot or more.

If you like, you can add compost, peat moss or other organic material, plus lime and fertilizer before planting.

Pull any weeds in spring before the rhubarb starts to grow. Waiting until later could damage the roots, causing decay or disease.

Don’t pick rhubarb the year you plant it. Instead, pick lightly the second season. Do not remove more than two-thirds of the stalks at a time.

To freeze, wash and chop stalks into small pieces, seal them in plastic bags and pop in the freezer.

Rhubarb Cheesecake Smoothies

Ingredients:

2 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons honey, divided

1 and one-half cups vanilla ice cream

1 cup milk

1 cup frozen sweetened sliced strawberries

2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, cubed

1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

5 ice cubes

In a large saucepan, bring the rhubarb, water and 2 tablespoons honey to a boil.

Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.

Remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature. In a blender, combine the ice cream, milk, rhubarb mixture, strawberries, cream cheese, yogurt, confectioners’ sugar, ice cubes and remaining honey.

Cover and process for 1 minute or until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

Orange-Rhubarb Breakfast Bread

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground ginger and 1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup orange juice

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

1/2 cup slivered almonds

2 tsp grated orange peel/zest

In large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.

Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg; add to creamed mixture alternately with orange juice.

Fold in the rhubarb, almonds and orange peel. Spoon into a greased 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Makes 1 loaf.

Note: If using frozen rhubarb measure rhubarb while frozen, thaw and drain in colander (not pressing liquid out.)

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Patricia Altomare invites your letters. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com.