Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but its culinary use is very much like a fruit. Traditional rhubarb has thick, green stalks while hothouse rhubarb has thinner stalks with bright red and pink colors. The brighter the color, the more tart the flavor seems to be. If you’ve ever wondered why rhubarb seems to be paired with strawberries all the time, it’s because the sweetness of the strawberries helps to balance out rhubarb’s tart flavor.
Rhubarb comes into season in April, peaks in April and May, and is available through summer. When choosing rhubarb, look for firm, crisp stalks, and shiny skins. Avoid stalks that are limp with blemishes and split ends. Look for small leaves, which indicate a younger plant, but don’t eat them — the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic.
Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks before you store them. Don’t cut the stalks until you are ready to use them, or the rhubarb will dry out. Uncut stalks can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week when sealed in a plastic bag. If you want to cut the stalks in advance, you can freeze them in an airtight bag or container.
Cut the stalks into whatever size pieces you need for a recipe. For desserts, this is usually between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch. Avoid cooking rhubarb in aluminum, iron, or copper pans because the acidity of the rhubarb will react with these metals, leading to discoloration of your cookware. Instead, choose pans that are made of enameled cast iron, anodized aluminum, non-stick coated aluminum, or glass.
Rhubarb is good in pies, crisps, and cobblers. We also like it mixed with strawberries.
Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
Makes 16 servings
I like baking bar recipes in a 7×11 glass baking dish because bars seem to cook more evenly. You may also use a 9-inch or an 8-inch baking pan and adjust the baking time. This recipe is easy to adapt to special diets.
2 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder, cornstarch or 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
2 cups finely ground almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut sugar, a sugar substitute for baking or regular granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and diced
Make the filling first by combining the rhubarb, strawberries, water, lemon juice, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the mixture boils. Cook until the fruit is very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and sprinkle with the xanthan gum and whisk quickly to combine. Cool the mixture in the refrigerator while you make the crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 7×11 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Make the filling by combining the almond flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is cut into tiny pieces. Press half of the mixture (about 1 ½ cups) onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish and bake 15 minutes, or until the edges turn crispy and golden.
Spread the cooled filling over the baked bottom crust and sprinkle with the remaining almond flour mixture.
Press down lightly with the bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake 45 minutes, or until the topping is crispy and the filling is bubbly. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until well chilled before cutting into bars.