I am thrilled that the farmer’s markets have finally re-opened for the season in Chicago. The last couple of Saturday mornings have been like a joyous reunion, as all of the market shoppers greet their favorite farmers and catch up on news from the farm and chat about what’s good at the market this week. The first weeks of spring mean two things to me – asparagus and rhubarb.
Asparagus is one of those things that just shouldn’t be bought at a grocery store. It’s best eaten within a couple days of picking, and the flavor doesn’t hold up too well when it’s been shipped from other countries. To store asparagus for a couple of days, I slice off a tiny bit of the ends from an entire bunch of asparagus in one slice, then store the whole bunch standing up in a cup with a tiny bit of water in it, and then put a plastic bag upside-down over the cup and asparagus – this will keep your asparagus fresh and snappy in the fridge for a couple days. Our first bunch of asparagus went on top of a gluten-free pizza, with green garlic pesto and a bit of tomato for sauce, and topped with some local buffalo mozzarella from the market. Best pizza I’ve ever made, for sure.
I have long been a rhubarb fan, and generally a fan of anything puckeringly tart. Growing up, we’d go over to Grandma’s house and harvest armfuls of rhubarb. Mom would make rhubarb sauce for breakfast, or if we were really lucky, Grandma would make a rhubarb pie. I’m not much of a baker, so most of my rhubarb is turned into strawberry rhubarb sauce, ice cream, or a summer crisp. I also stockpile cubed rhubarb in the freezer for the winter season.
Rhubarb sauce is stunningly simple to make – toss a bunch of cubed rhubarb into a saucepan, add a little water, sugar, a couple handfuls of strawberries, and simmer until soft. Taste, and add more sugar to suit your tastes – I like my rhubarb quite tart. I’ve been adding a couple spoonfuls of rhubarb sauce to my bowl of oatmeal, and eating it a spoon or two at a time from the container in the fridge – I love this stuff!
Makes 1 quart
1 1/2lbs of rhubarb
2 cups frozen strawberries, whole
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
- Combine all ingredients in a pot and stir together. Cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is simmering, remove the lid, stir, and cook for about 5 more minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Add more sweetener if you like.
Serving suggestions: swirl some into your morning oatmeal, serve over vanilla ice cream, top a bowl of plain yogurt with a couple spoonfuls and a bit of granola or eat it straight up!