Monthly Archives: June 2013

Rhubarb in the Rye

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Right now, in the midst of transition, stress and uncertainty, I’m trying to find joy in the simple things. The scent of fresh gardenias from the yard, filling the kitchen with their summery perfume. The sight of the first firefly of the evening. The sound of our dog plopping down onto her bed at night. A compliment from a stranger.

I’ve been wanting to make these bars since I first saw Molly Wizenberg’s post on them and I’ve been wanting to do something with rhubarb for months but haven’t been able to find any good rhubarb at the farmers’ market. Finally, I succumbed and bought some at Whole Foods because they had some gorgeous New York rhubarb at a decent price. The rye flour lends a rich nuttiness to the crust and the streusel and is intensified by the toasted walnuts which also provide a nice texture. Black pepper makes its presence known, adding some extra oomph without being too obtrusive. It’s a good counterpart to the tart rhubarb jam that’s layered in between. The streusel recipe is definitely a keeper and would be awesome overtop a single-crust pie (I’m particularly yearning to use it in a peach pie) but the possibilities are endless.

If you’re pressed for time, you could easily use store-bought jam but I think it’s simple and worth it to make your own. Like Molly, I imagine an apricot jam would be lovely in this recipe but my mind wanders…

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Rhubarb and Rye Streusel Bars adapted from The Bojon Gourmet and Molly Wizenberg

      For the Crust:

  • 3/4 cup rye flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup toasted, rubbed walnuts, chopped
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed

 

Rhubarb Jam

  • 1 lb rhubarb, washed with the ends cut off and sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and scraped)
  • 1/4 cup water

 

For the Streusel:

  • reserved cup of crust mixture
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned, rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup toasted, rubbed walnuts, chopped
  • 1 TBS chilled butter cut into pieces

 

To make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Then add the walnuts and the butter and pulse until the mixture starts climbing up the sides and has the texture of damp sand. If it’s a little dry, just massage the mixture with your hands.

Line an 8×8″ square pan with parchment or foil and leave a 1″ overhang on both sides (you don’t have to do this but it will make transferring and cutting the bars a little easier). Dump the crust mixture into the pan, reserving  1/2 cup for the streusel. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan, making sure it’s as smooth and flat as possible. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or so or until golden brown and firm.

 

To make the jam:

Place the rhubarb in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, vanilla bean seeds and pod and water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-medium low and continue simmering for another 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is thick and the rhubarb is mostly broken down, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to burn! Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove and either rinse off and save the vanilla bean pod or discard it.

 

To make the streusel:

In a medium bowl, combine the reserved 1/2 cup of crust mixture with the oats, walnuts and the 1 TBS of butter. Massage with your fingers until everything is incorporated and starts clumping together.

 

Assembly:

Pour the rhubarb jam over the crust and spread evenly. Use your fingers to form little clumps of the  streusel and sprinkle it overtop. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the streusel has turned golden brown. *(I’d set the timer for 20 minutes to start, just to keep an eye on everything and make sure you don’t over-bake). Let cool for about 20-30 minutes, slice and enjoy!

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List Love

  • This article—a recap on what it is like to eat/live like Gwyneth Paltrow for 10 days is a hilarious read
  • Totally interested in trying to read several books on this list
  • I’m dying to make this summer salad. And then watch Chocolat. …Just kidding…but really, this salad!!
  • I think this is the sweetest, most wonderful story…you can also listen to Cynthia’s Moth story here
  • The other night I had the privilege to see my dear, talented friend Caitlin Watkins play a show at The Green Bean, along with my favorite subway band from Brooklyn, Bird Courage—a trio of wonderfully talented and kind musicians.  I used to hear them play in the Metropolitan station a lot and absolutely loved them. Then Caitlin befriended them and now they play shows together! You can hear two of my favorite songs of theirs here and here

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The Jam

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A few weeks ago I made strawberry jam for a homemade Mother’s Day brunch (to be rolled up into some luscious sourdough crepes) and dolled up with some mascarpone-whipped cream. It was fun, it made me feel fancy and it impressed people. So naturally, I was hooked. I see many more jam-making endeavors in my near future! Store-bought jams (even the good brands, like Bonne Maman and Sarabeth’s) tend to to be a tad too sugary. Funny enough, I used a recycled Bonne Maman jar for this jam (those red & white checked lids are just too darned cute)! And although strawberry season is coming to an inevitable close, you may still be able to find some good farmers’ market berries and make this killer jam. I imagine it would work equally well with blueberries or blackberries, though you would probably need to up the sugar amount.

So for the method. Instead of just putting the fruit and sugar together in a pot and immediately cooking,  you take a slower, more graceful approach, letting the berries  macerate for several hours and overnight, creating a wonderful syrup that in turn, will create a lovely, jam.

I’ve made it twice now, experimenting with the cook time and it yielded two different results. The first time I made it I only cooked it for about 20 minutes and it yielded a runnier, syrup-like consistency (precisely what I was aiming for). It was a bright hue and tasted like most strawberry jams (but better)!

The second time around, by accident, I ended up cooking it for about 30-35 minutes or so, at a slightly higher temp. The bottom was starting to scald and get crusty and I was afraid it was ruined. The jam was a much darker hue, almost as if I had put balsamic vinegar in it. It was also thicker, less sweet and richer with more depth and complexity. So it it may have been an accident but it was a happy accident indeed, so let that be a testament to the fact that not all accidents are bad.

I love both versions and think they’re both equally delicious, they’re just different. So it depends on what you’re going for. .. Whichever you decide, this recipe is incredibly simple and guaranteed to be a hit with anyone you share it with (if you feel inclined to share).

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Strawberry Jam

2 lbs. fresh strawberries (rinsed thoroughly, hulled and halved)

1 cup of granulated sugar (or 1 1/2 cups if your strawberries aren’t as ripe or if you just prefer a sweeter jam)

Put the strawberries in a large bowl and toss with the sugar. Let sit to macerate for at least five hours (the longer the better), stirring every couple of hours. It’s best to start this in the mid-late afternoon. Transfer them to a large colander placed over a large bowl, to catch the juices. Cover the strawberries and colander in plastic wrap or with a towel and refrigerate overnight.

Transfer the strawberries and their juices to a large pot and bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer over medium-medium low heat. Mash the strawberries some with a potato masher or a spoon and stir periodically (make sure the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn). Simmer for 20-40 minutes (depending on how thick or thin you want your jam). The longer you cook it, the less jam you will have. Remove from heat. Transfer to a jar (s), seal tightly and let sit in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes. Keep fresh in refrigerator.

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