Nothing Like a Little Revenge Cooking

Ed. Note: Our friend Julia, the pending med student and far mar worker, tells us what to do with that mysterious rhubarb. Julia previous spun Meyer lemons into syrup.

Last Saturday when I was working at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market, I spent all day singing the praises of rhubarb. I then realized that all I ever do with it is make crisps, so I decided to branch out and started searching for other things. Plus, my co-worker Nick thinks it’s a dumb vegetable, and very over-hyped, so I was trying to prove him wrong. Nothing like a little revenge cooking.

I love rhubarb because it adds something unexpected to sweet deserts. It takes on the sweetness, but also is fresh and bright and slightly sour. It just tastes like spring to me: new and tangy. I have to say, I think this roasted rhubarb recipe could be the gateway drug for the gorgeous magenta stick. And it’s going to be hard for me to go back to my normal crisps after this. It was so, so good.

Roasted Rhubarb with Vanilla and Orange

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When Life Gives You Lemons…Turn Them into Syrup

Ed. Note: While I sat all morning and ran cards through the ATM, Julia worked her ass off selling Richfield Farms’ fabulous produce at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market all summer. I sat; she fielded questions about zucchini. I sat; she made change in her head. I sat; she hulled boxes back on the truck. Of course, she loved every minute of it and has now turned her attention to canning. Here’s her dabble in marmalading.

Despite the ridicule from my friends—all of them Southern with canning-loving grandmothers—dropping mostly not-so-veiled references to me being an 80-year-old Southern grandmother, and my boyfriend just saying I was nuts, I decided to become a canner. Over the summer months I put up dozens of jars of preserves, whole fruit and tomato sauce. Then November hit, the market ended, and I got bored.

Several weeks ago, after a canning lull, I began to feel the itch.  Trader Joe’s had organic meyer lemons – bingo. Now normally I’m not a big freak about organic foods, but with citrus, it’s different. The toxins from any sprayed pesticides are stored in the peel, and so for something like marmalade, which uses the peel, it’s important to start with a non-tainted fruit. Who needs pesticides on top of the always present botulism threat?

Not wanting to squander my precious finds, I did quite a bit of pre-marmalading research on my favorite canning blogs (One Green Generation and Food in Jars) and ended up creating my own recipe based off a few I found. Normally with canning I stick to a specific recipe—again the threat of botulism is scary—but lemons are super acidic, and there’s a lot of sugar, so I felt pretty safe taking a few liberties.

My first marmalade attempt turned out more like a syrup and the taste is fabulous: sweet, tart and acidic with the chewy zest providing a good counter point to the runny liquid.  Next time I’ll trust my instinct and let it cook longer. But I’m loving the new things I can do because of the more liquid texture: a salad dressing with red wine vinegar and a little olive oil; with mustard to marinate chicken; topping for vanilla ice cream; glaze for a cake; and of course, a way to dress up plain yogurt.

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I’ve Made Peace with Summer Produce

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“You still have tomatoes?” I whispered to Julia as I scanned what was left at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market.

She knew I wasn’t referring to what produce was available a mere 30 minutes before closing, but rather that tomatoes still graced the market the first Saturday in November. “They’re from the hothouse, I think,” she whispers back, eyes squinting out of secrecy.

“They’ve all been picked at this point,” Julia guesses, as she only works the stand, not farms the land. (Not that selling vegetables—and making change without a calculator!—is easy on a weekend morning.)

I didn’t try one of the last quarts of tiny yellow tomatoes. I’ve made peace with summer produce. I’ve said my goodbyes. I bought the last of my tomatoes two weeks ago, roasting them in a low and slow oven, and letting them linger in my fridge for just a few more weeks.

Using them sparingly at first—a few in an egg scramble, a few right to the mouth, a few on toast—I now must act fast before mold wins them over.

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