Thursday, June 25, 2015

In the Pink -- Pucker Up for Rhubarb: Recipes for Borscht And Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb Beet Borscht
I'm still seeing lots of rhubarb on the shelves of my supermarkets and produce stores here in California, which seems late in the season for these purplish red and green-tinged stalks.

I hope you have access to lots of fresh rhubarb where you live, but if you don't you can use frozen rhubarb available in many some  groceries, natural foods and specialty markets, and on line (no need to defrost for the recipes below, but defrost and drain first if using in baking.) That makes me think of buying some stalks, cutting in pieces and freezing them myself so I can have the tart goodness of rhubarb throughout the year.

My memories of this astringent ingredient are sweet, not sour. My Grandma Clara used to stew me up a batch of rhubarb harvested from a neighbor's field. 

The plant's stalks cook up pink.  Often strawberries or sugar are added to tame its astringency. In the borscht, I combine rhubarb's tartness with beets' sweetness. If serving cold, you may need additional seasoning.  I like to serve the soup cold at parties as "shooters" in shot glasses topped with a swirl of yogurt and sprinkle of minced dill or mint as an appetizer.

Buckwheat is from the same botanical family as rhubarb and blintzes made with the flour are an earthy complement to the tangy Strawberry Rhubarb Compote. The blintz wrappers are very versatile and can be used with a variety of fillings. Try the compote on top of cheesecake or ice cream.

Since your rhubarb may be more or less astringent than mine, taste as you add sugar since you may need more or less than I've indicated in the recipes.

Be sure to discard any rhubarb leaves as they contain toxic compounds.

Rhubarb Beet Borscht
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 lbs. beet roots, trimmed
8 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. sugar or more as needed
1/2 tsp. lemon juice or more as needed
Garnishes (see below)

Thinly peel beet roots. Cut into 1/4" dice (4 cups). Bring stock to simmer. Add beets and garlic. Simmer 15 minutes until beets have begun to soften. Slice rhubarb into 1/4" pieces (3 cups). Add rhubarb, salt, pepper, and cardamom to soup. Simmer until rhubarb is falling part and beets are completely soft, 30-40 minutes. Taste. Add sugar and or lemon juice to balance taste sweet-tart. Cool and puree half in blender or with immersion blender and return to pot. Serve warm with garnish(es) or chill. If serving cold, taste and correct seasoning before garnishing.

Garnishes: Chose from one or more: sour cream or yogurt; sliced hard-boiled eggs; sliced, boiled potatoes, and minced fresh dill or mint.
Creative Commons license see below

Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Makes 10-12

4 Tbs. melted butter, divided
1 recipe Buckwheat Blintz Crepe Batter (see below)
1 recipe Blintz Filling (see below)
1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (see below)
1 Tbs. butter

Melt 3 Tbs. butter. Heat 8" omelet, fry or crepe pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter.  When sizzling, lift pan up and pour in 1/4 cup batter, swirling to coat bottom evenly. Return to heat.  Cook for 1 minute or until the top of the crepe is set and bottom is light brown or has brown spots. Turn out on a clean dishcloth. Repeat until batter is done, reapplying the melted butter before each crepe.

Lay browned side down. Place 2 Tbs. of filling in middle, leaving about a 1" margin at top and bottom of crepe. Fold top over filling, then fold bottom over. Fold one side over, then the other. Repeat with remaining crepes. Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large fry pan over medium heat.  Fry in batches for 2 minutes on each side. Serve topped with compote.

Buckwheat Blintz Crepe Batter: Combine in a blender 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup buckwheat flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cold water, 2 eggs, 2 Tbs. oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Blend on high until well mixed, then for 20 seconds.  Let sit for 1 hour and blend again.

Blintz Filling: Combine 2 cups ricotta cheese, 1 beaten egg, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Mix well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:  Simmer 1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb with 1/2 cup of orange juice until just soft. Add 2 cups quartered strawberries, 1 Tbs. lemon juice and 2 Tbs. sugar.  Simmer until strawberries are just cooked. Chill. Use at room temperature.
Photo credits: Soup: Blog Appetit; Rhubarb, By RhubarbFarmer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Another version of this post appeared in the j weekly.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My, My, My Negroni

Inspired by Negroni cocktails I had during the recent Negroni Week, I thought I would celebrate the Golden State Warriors' championship win tonight with the tipple.  

I also had almost everything at home for this simple cocktail except orange peel for the garnish.  I ended up garnishing my cocktail with slices of a Frog Hollow Farm apricot.  To complement the garnish I added a splash of peach schnapps. I liked the results and I share them with you as "My Negroni." For a traditional negroni, simply leave out the schnapps and garnish with the orange peel. I thought my version was a tad smoother.

For a more woodsy version of a Negroni, I direct you to the excellent Sunset Magazine version I had on my recent media tour. It is not more complicated, but the taste is more piney and the ingredients are more specific. The Forest Negroni is the creation of Sunset editor Nino Padova.

My Negroni
Makes 1 large drink

I used a traditional shot glass as a measure

1 measure Campari
1 measure sweet red (rosso) vermouth
1 measure gin
1/4 measure peach schnapps
2 slices of apricot or 1 slice peach

Fill shaker with ice. Pour in Campari, vermouth, gin and schnapps. Shake well.  Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with apricot slices.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Last Hurrah at Sunset Magazine's Menlo Park Campus This Weekend. Come Celebrate the Best of the West!

Sign from 2014 Celebration Weekend
If Sunset Magazine is said to celebrate the life in the West, the sale of it's famed 1951 Cliff May-designed Menlo Park campus is the end of an era and this weekend's Celebration Weekend could be the public's last chance to experience the mid-century landmark.

The move represents not just a change for the home, garden and travel icon of the West but for the population it serves in the coastal and southwestern U.S. Ever larger homes and gardens in suburbia are in many areas being replaced by an urban lifestyle accented by chickens, sustainable container gardens and recycled, homemade artisan maker-style crafts and projects.

Perhaps that shift in interests is reflected by the magazine's planned move in December from it's seven acre suburban campus filled with indoor and outdoor test kitchens, test gardens, wine cellar and offices to Oakland's Jack London Square. A second facility with wine and garden facilities is also planned for Sonoma County north of San Francisco.

At least that's the take I get from talking to Sunset editors at a recent media preview of the June 6 and 7 Celebration Weekend and from Editor in Chief Peggy Northrup's blog post.

Editors at the magazine vow to continue its coverage for both suburban and urban sectors of its audience and their passion for helping their readers live better shone throughout my tour.

The public can come experience all Sunset has to offer during the magazine's 17th annual Celebration Weekend at its campus at 80 Willow Road in Menlo Park.  It is always well attended but Sunset is expecting upwards of 20,000 attendees this year, so I recommend buying tickets in advance. (Plus you'll save $10). Tickets to some tastings and special activities are already sold out.

I went to the weekend last year and thoroughly enjoyed the food samples, kitchen tour, gardens, special exhibits and vendors for home, garden and travel as well as the entertainment and food trucks.
(Here's my write up of last year's event.)  Check the Sunset website for a full schedule of cooking demos (from famed chefs and Sunset staff) as well as entertainment, gardening, decorating and travel presentations..

This year I attended a media preview of Celebration Weekend.  Some highlights of that are below.
Please watch for a separate post with a cocktail and a mocktail recipe from the event.