Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring, Finally

Today it seems like spring in Minnesota. The snow has melted and last night it rained. A few days ago I saw some petite crocuses popping up. When I was in New Orleans at the IACP conference, we saw lots of shrubs in bloom, including delicate pink roses.

One of the sessions I attended, Local on the Plate, was a panel discussion by Raymond Blanc, whose hotel restaurant, Le Manoir, has maintained Michelin two star status for 21 years, Mark Hix, an award winning journalist, and Donald Link. Donald Link is the owner/chef for Herbsaint and Cochon that both are focused on using local organic ingredients in season. That is a lot easier to do in New Orleans that it is to do here.

As consumers we have to demand change but also realize that it will cost more. Only consuming locally grown or produced foods has its limits so we must rely on importing foods from other areas. Chef Link believes we have to teach people how to cook and what to buy, especially people with lower incomes.

In honor of spring approaching I am posting an easy recipe for Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble. Rhubarb is one of the first local fruits to appear but blueberries take a lot longer. This time of year I use fresh rhubarb and frozen blueberries. This recipe is from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble

Fresh, sweet blueberries tame the tartness of rhubarb in this British crumble. Rhubarb is traditionally a sign of spring, and I always buy extra when I go to the farmers’ market or find it at the supermarket. It can be frozen without washing or trimming but should be tightly wrapped.

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup orange juice, or water

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut-up

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in center. Spray bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking dish or 1 1/2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of flour and cinnamon in large bowl. Add rhubarb, blueberries, and orange juice and stir until fruit is well coated. Be careful not to break the blueberries. Spoon into prepared baking dish.
Bake 30 minutes or until juices are starting to thicken and bubble.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup of flour with the brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Crumble over the hot fruit.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes longer or until juices are bubbling and rhubarb is fork-tender. Cool on wire cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any remaining in refrigerator.

Baker’s Note: Because frozen rhubarb and frozen blueberries are available throughout the year, this dessert can be baked any time. When you are using frozen rhubarb, I suggest chopping the largest pieces. Use the rhubarb and blueberries while still frozen. After adding the topping, you will need to bake about 60 minutes longer.
Secrets to Success: When I serve this dessert warm, I offer it with a little cream.

Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair (Copyright 2006- Surrey Books)

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