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The start of summer is here and so is rhubarb season. Rhubarb can be found at the Salem NH Farmers Market until June, also when strawberries are abundant. Rhubarb is synonymous with pie. But it’s a vegetable. And pie is not the only way to eat rhubarb. I’m learning that it’s delicious in all kinds of desserts.

It’s still a fairly new ingredient for me, though my mother cooked with it, lots, during my youth. I remember not really enjoying it, but then again, I was a kid. I didn’t like many things.

When buying rhubarb look for thin, red, crisp stalks. Floppy stalks are not fresh. When cooked, the red stalks become soft and delicious. If you buy your rhubarb from the Farmers Market, you’re guaranteed freshness. Arrowhead Farm’s rhubarb was perfect.

My plan was to make compote, but I ended up blending the rhubarb mixture a little longer than I should have. I added lime juice and grated rind, and on a whim, a bit of tequila. The resulting sauce was a perfect topping for Buttermilk Panna Cotta and a layer in Cinnamon Bread Pudding. Pour it over ice cream or mix some with apple cider vinegar and EVOO for vinaigrette. It may be a good base for ice cream, too!

Bread pudding is also an easy way to showcase different flavors, sweet or savory. You can never, ever go wrong with bread pudding. The Fresh Plate offers cinnamon raisin swirl bread that I’d been dying to turn into bread pudding. Raw milk, cream and quark (similar to cream cheese) from Brookford Farm, eggs from Arrowhead Farm and maple syrup from Anderson’s Mini Maples — all from the market — make up the basic ingredients.

The bread pudding can be made in a large baking dish, or in 1 c mason jars. I ended up with extra custard base and made a version using biscuits from The Fresh Plate. Slice biscuits in half and follow the layering technique in the recipe below. The biscuits were the perfect size for 1 c mason jars.

buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry rhubarb sauceStrawberry Rhubarb Sauce

What you need:

  • 1 c water
  • 1/2 c Riesling
  • 1/2 c pure cane sugar
  • 1/3 c local honey
  • 1/3 c pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp lime rind
  • 2 lb rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2” stalks
  • 2 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/4 c tequila
  • 2 tbs+ cornstarch

What you do:

  • In lg saucepan heat water, Riesling, sugar, honey, maple syrup and vanilla until sugar dissolves.
  • Add lime juice and rind.
  • Add rhubarb and cook until softened, about 5 min.
  • In sm bowl whisk tequila with cornstarch.
  • Add to rhubarb mixture, whisking to incorporate.
  • Add more cornstarch, if needed, to reach a thicker consistency.
  • Remove from heat and add half the strawberries.
  • Allow to cool 5 min.
  • Using immersion blender, slightly puree until desired consistency is reached.
  • Chop remaining strawberries and add to rhubarb mixture.
  • Transfer to pouring vessel and refrigerate.