Oh Rhubarb, How do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

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Only something as amazing as seeing fresh rhubarb on the grocery store shelf could pull me out of my month-long blog hiatus to write. Not that I haven’t wanted to write! It’s just that I started a new job which has consumed even the illusion of having free time, so both the cooking and the blogging has fallen by the wayside. Until now. When I saw those long red stalks from across the produce section, I literally did a happy dance and Mr. Foodie looked on in amusement as I scooped armfuls of the glorious plant into our cart. I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I took every last one. Rhubarb season is short. Too short for my desiring heart. 

When I see rhubarb, like most people, I remember pie. But not just any pie—my grandmother’s pie. As a midwestern transplant to California, my grandma would frequently serve forth this delicious treat. I liked it better than any pie I’d ever tasted. I found the tart fruit a perfect compliment to the buttery, flaky pie crust and the light sweetness of the added sugar. For some reason, I always look for rhubarb in the weeks prior to Easter. I’m not sure why I expect it to be there. Maybe I remember eating it around Easter time? In any case, April is too early in the season for rhubarb stalks, but I look for it just the same. Apparently, growing rhubarb in one’s yard is so common in the midwest that grocery stores don’t even carry it in spring! #gardeningoals

Since I was lucky enough to catch it this year before it disappeared from the shelves, I wanted to find other uses for this delicious treat. The first thing I tried was a topping for pancakes—a well-explored subject on this blog for sure. That being said, I outdid myself with the rhubarb topping. The first time you encounter rhubarb, you might be intimidated. It looks like celery and may have either strange green claws on either end or wide leaves attached. First, discard any leaves because they are very toxic. Second, go ahead and chop off the little claws. You’ll notice the red “skin” *can* be peeled off the stalk, but why lose the beautiful red color? It’s perfectly edible. For the topping, dice up the stalk like you would a celery stalk for a pasta sauce. I used enough stalks for four cups worth. dicedrhubarb

Add two tablespoons of butter and 1/2 Cup of sugar to the pan. Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb stalks soften and the mixture resembles a compote. That’s it! Pour it on pancakes, spread it on toast, eat it with a spoon out of the jar – you’ll have a hard time stopping yourself, I promise you!

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Mr. Foodie and I, of course, made the traditional two-crust rhubarb pie, but we also dabbled with a rhubarb crisp – minus the strawberries because I did not want to dilute the gorgeous rhubarb flavor. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of these due to the over-quick consumption by friends and family (and Mr. Foodie) lol. There were other recipes I wanted to try, but I only had enough stalks to try a small experiment with rhubarb simple syrup. Just dice up two stalks, add to one cup water and one cup sugar, cook for about 20 minutes on low heat until sugar is dissolved. Strain, and add to a clear liquor of your choice. In this case, I used vodka and a splash of prosecco for some bubbles. I added sliced strawberries more for garnish than anything. It was delicious!

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Do you have any other rhubarb recipes?! I’d love to know for next year’s rhubarb stash! For more foodie adventures, follow us on instagram @fairfaxfoodie

A Happy Hour for Foodies: Whiskey Sour Day

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The first time I had to make a cocktail from scratch I was in a foreign country. I lived in Denmark for four months in college, and by the time our visit was concluded, I wanted to stay forever! I arrived in January, in the middle of one of the worst winters they had had in 30 years. The cold coupled with the fact that the Danish only get a handful of hours of light in the winter had me feeling a little bleak some days. Luckily a friend who was also visiting from my college was rooming with a Danish family who took me in as one of their own. The first weekend we were there they hosted a Danish dinner party for us. I will never forget the pickled herring on toast or the sharp, tasteless schnapps sipped from tall, elegant shot glasses that paired with it. Perhaps the most memorable dish of that meal was the leverpostej which was baked liver pate covered in bacon. I had never had liver in my life, but what an introduction! Some day I will recreate it for you all so you can have the pleasure.

One day my college friend and I wanted to return the favor and make a Mexican feast for them. There was only one “Mexican” restaurant in town and it was a hybrid “Mexican-Italian” place – it was as awful as it sounds. So we went shopping and with a little language trial-and-error were able to procure most of the items we needed to make pico de gallo, mango salad, and tacos. All that remained was margaritas. Copenhagen is not known for having “mixed drinks” in its bars – beer and wine and straight liquor only. The liquor store did not sell a margarita mix which was all we knew about making margaritas (being young in drinking at the time). We were stumped, so we did a little research and discovered the recipe for margaritas without the mix. Since then I have perfected my from-scratch margarita and gone on to make other drinks without a mix and with a level of creativity that I had not known was possible so many years ago.

Whiskey is a liquor we have on hand often because Mr. Foodie likes a basic whiskey-coke more than most other types of cocktails. Good for us since yesterday was National Whiskey Sour Day! Each week I always grab a handful of lemons because I end up using them in all sorts of ways throughout the week. They are also handy for several from-scratch cocktails that we both love. My recipe for whiskey sour is the simplest version: 2 shots whiskey, half a juicy lemon squeezed over, and 4 teaspoons of sugar or to taste – this makes one good sized cocktail. Mr. Foodie and I like to taste our liquor typically, so most of my cocktail recipes are designed to feel the heat of the liquor on your tongue. You can, of course, adjust the amount of lemon and sugar you add to make it palatable to your taste.

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What I love about this drink is its balance – the smokey whiskey, the tart lemon, and the sweet kiss of sugar make this cocktail the kind you don’t mind sipping while making dinner or staring out at the water watching boats float by. One is usually perfectly satisfying for me. I’m looking forward to sharing more of our cocktail recipes with you in the coming weeks! Do you have a favorite from-scratch cocktail recipe you’d like to share?

Whiskey Sour Recipe

3 oz (2 shots) of Whiskey

Juice of 1/2 a juicy lemon (or more if desired)

4 teaspoons of sugar (or to taste)

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 5-6 times, pour over ice in a low ball glass. Garnish with lemon and/or sugar if desired.

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Birthday Cocktail – The Joint in Cudjoe Key

So yesterday was my birthday! I was almost a 4th of July baby, but not quite. My sainted mother had to deal with an overdue child in the middle of a Death Valley summer. Luckily we were able to celebrate this birthday here in the blue green waters of the lower keys. While we ate and drank a lot of delicious things this past weekend, I really want to tell you about this cocktail I had at The Joint (located around mile marker 25). It is only a couple years old and owes its success to its downstairs counter-part, The Square Grouper, a local favorite (and my family’s favorite) for years. The Joint is a casual bar and small plates place with quaint fishing decor and some rather inventive cocktails. My mother had a cucumber, black pepper, vodka cocktail that was stange, but delicious to ladies like us who don’t care for sweet drinks. Mine was called the Indica and consisted of torched-rosemary infused vodka, grapefruit juice, and St. Germain with a sprig of fresh rosemary for garnish. You definitely need to love rosemary to drink this drink, but luckily I do because it was delicious. We ordered some small plates as well, but the show-stopper was the cheese fondue. If you’re looking for a laid back, but slightly trendy atmosphere, see that you pop into The Joint for a drink and a game of shuffleboard.