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.  

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