Spring has finally settled in Boston, which, in typical New England style, means schizophrenic shifts between almost 90-degree days and below-40 degree nights. Next week it will probably snow. However, there is one constant you can count on during spring even when all else fails: pollen attacking your face hard.
Fortunately, it also means some new produce is coming into season, and eating produce in season is the best. You’ve probably seen everyone and their mother’s rhubarb recipe these last few weeks. Far be it from me to go against the tide. Besides, can you really have too many rhubarb recipes? I didn’t think so.
Rhubarb was something of an eye-opener for me. For most of my life, I had never tasted it, had barely caught glimpses of it. Those glimpses taught me little more than that rhubarb looked and smelled like unnaturally red celery (which, to this day, I have only ever truly enjoyed as a contributor to stocks and Bloody Mary’s). But I knew it was a seemingly magical ingredient in certain baked goods, namely pies. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I would have my first taste of rhubarb pie and would never look back. For being a vegetable, rhubarb is fantastic for all sorts of beautiful tartly goodness.
Did you know rhubarb’s leaves are poisonous? They contain oxalic acid, which can also be found in other tasty items like bleach and anti-rust products like metal cleaners. Even rhubarb stalks, the parts we like to eat, contain traces of oxalic acid, but not nearly to the same levels as the leaves.
So if you get rhubarb with leaves….just use the stalks, okay? And just don’t eat, like, pounds of raw rhubarb stalks either.
Okay, that’s settled then. Eat some rhubarb. Pretend like you are living on the edge of danger while you do.
This tart is a cooler spin on your usual rhubarb strawberry pie. Macerated strawberries and rhubarb that has been poached in a simple syrup sit atop a tangy filling of whipped cream and cream cheese, all within a graham crust.
The creamy filling is not too sweet. The rhubarb’s natural tartness plays nicely with the macerated strawberry’s sweetness. It’s a light, refreshing treat for these warmer days, perfect for spring and summer.
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
Makes one 9″ pie or tart
To make the topping…
2 1/2 c of rhubarb, leaves and ends removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 lb (12 oz) strawberries, cored and sliced thinly
1/4 c and 1/3 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c water
In a medium bowl, combine strawberries and 1/4 c of sugar. Let them macerate for at least one hour.
In a medium saucepan, heat remaining 1/3 c of sugar with 1 1/2 cups of water over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Working with only a cup of rhubarb at a time, cook rhubarb in the syrup for 2-3 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon into a clean bowl. Don’t overcook the rhubarb or it will fall apart. The rhubarb should be soft but still hold its shape. Reuse the syrup to poach the next cup of rhubarb and so forth.
When all of the rhubarb has been poached, pour the syrup over the rhubarb and let the whole thing cool completely. Combine rhubarb and about half of its syrup with the strawberries. As for the rest of the syrup, I admit that I just drank it up with a little ice. Tart and refreshing!
To make the crust…
Adapted, only slightly, from Momofuku Milk Bar
1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c milk powder
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 tbs unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted
1/4 c heavy cream
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar, and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
Whisk the butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. The mixture will begin to bunch into small clusters. You have the right consistency if the mixture holds its shape when squeezed tightly with your hand. If it is not moist enough to do so, melt an additional 1 to 1 1/2 tbs of butter and mix it in.
Turn the mixture out into a 9″ tart pan or pie tin and press the mixture into the edges with your fingers, taking care to evenly distribute the crumbs across the pan and in its grooves. If you use a tart pan, you will have some crust mixture left over. Save if for use in other recipes or, if you are me, have yourself a little mid-bake snack.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow the crust to cool completely before adding the filling.
To make the filling…
3/4 c cream cheese, room temperature
3 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c heavy cream, cold
1/2 c powdered sugar
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip cream until it has formed stiff peaks and doubled in volume. Scoop whipped cream into another bowl and store in the refrigerator. Wash down your mixing bowl, fit your mixer with a paddle attachment, and then beat cream cheese, salt, and butter until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer down to a low speed and add powdered sugar, then turn the speed back up to medium for another 3-5 minutes.
Turn off the mixer and gently fold in whipped cream with a spatula.
Scoop out whipped cream cheese filling into the pie crust and spread out evenly. Top with rhubarb and strawberries. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.
You can just as easily whip up creme fraiche instead of using whipped cream and cream cheese, to be honest. It will give you the same tang, but will probably be a bit lighter in taste, if that’s your thing. I was just going with the cream cheese because I had somehow managed to mistakenly buy it not once but twice over the last few weeks, instead of sour cream and fresh mozzarella, respectively. Something positive had to come out of my amazingly impressive feats of stupidity.