Last weekend found me in Chicago for another family occasion. I haven’t seen this much family in years! There was not a spare moment to be had and I came home exhausted and playing catch up. It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon that Zoe and I finally made it into the city. We set off on Michigan Avenue, took a few quick pics at Millenium Park,
grabbed some Garret’s caramel corn and headed to Eataly.
We perused the offerings and dreamily wished there was one located in each of our home towns. Monday morning found us at Little Goat and wishing we had room for one of everything. I had the “One Little Piggy went to China” which was a biscuit topped with Asian chorizo, a fried egg and a green onion sauce with blackberries on top. Heaven on a biscuit. Maybe that would bring Manboy home.
It was then off to the Art Institute,
a quick lunch at the University Club,
and then because Zoe can not be held back, a trip up State Street to grab a donut ice cream sandwich at Fire Cakes before we caught a cab to Midway. I love the Windy City and it was true to its name. Chicago always reminds me of happy things, because as a child we often went there for special occasions. I love going back and hope it won’t be too long before I can visit again.
But on to rhubarb. Rhubarb is something that grew in our neighbor’s yard. It is something I did not eat, though I also think it is something my mother did not share. Besides stealing the neighbor’s peonies, my mother also stole the rhubarb. Yes, my mother is a thief of things, in the shade of pink. I can remember her going through the bushes, scissors in hand and cutting from each plant so the theft didn’t look obvious. Why my mother never asked Frances if she could have some is beyond me. I am sure she wouldn’t have minded. After all, she did let us play Cowboys and Indians in her yard.
Maybe that’s why rhubarb always seemed so mysterious. Mom never served it to us and if I recall she only made stewed rhubarb, which wasn’t particularly appealing to me. It wasn’t until last year that I had my first taste of rhubarb. Someone brought me a rhubarb crumble that was particularly delicious. And pretty. And we all know everything is pretty in pink.
My first official taste found me wondering why I had waited so long. The slightly sour fruit left a tang in my mouth that found me wanting more. So this year when rhubarb became available I was ready. I used rhubarb in tzimmes which is a Jewish dish traditionally made of prunes, carrots and sweet potatoes. It may or may not have meat. I threw in some rhubarb and thought it was pretty good. Yes, it was also the first time I made tzimmes, as I never liked that as a kid either!
And then I made these shortbread bars with a rhubarb, black pepper topping. I was amazed that the rhubarb keeps its pretty pink color. These bars are luscious, easy to make and quickly disappear. Using a shortbread crust and then topping it with a rhubarb, strawberry jam mixture made such a delightful dessert. Though these are bars, they are sticky; so I suggest serving them as dessert with a scoop of ice cream. I added some black pepper to the strawberry jam and found that pepper has an affinity for rhubarb and vanilla.
Grab some rhubarb. Don’t hesitate. The world of rhubarb awaits!
Rhubarb and Black Pepper Shortbread Bars
Makes 1 13 x 9 pan
About 20 minutes to prepare and 55 minutes to bake
2 c flour
2/3 c powdered sugar
1 c softened butter
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 c flour
2 1/2 c sugar
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t allspice
1/2 c strawberry jam
4 1/2 c chopped rhubarb
Preheat oven to 350.
Make crust by combining flour and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Cut in softened butter until mixture resembles small crumbs. Grease a 13 x 9 pan and pat mixture into pan. Put into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove.
To make topping: Combine salt, flour, sugar, black pepper and allspice. In a large mixing cup beat eggs with jam. Stir into flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped rhubarb and mix well. Spread topping onto shortbread crust. Return to oven and bake for 55 minutes. Let cool. Serve with ice cream or not. Store in refrigerator.