Friday, April 16, 2010

In Season NW: Rhubarb Over Raab

I love a good rant when it's well-informed and passionate. Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood goes off about labeling any flowering vegetable as raab, which kinda bugs me, too. Once he gets that out of his system, he goes on to discuss roasted rhubarb, a great addition to the spring repertoire.

Raab Rant

The tendency to use the term “raab” for the immature flower stalks of vegetables typically eaten during some other phase of their life cycle needs to be stopped. Raab is a corruption version of rapa, Italian for turnip. Broccoli is the plural of the Italian broccolo, which means the flowering head of a cabbage. Broccoli raab: flowering head of a turnip (aka rapini, another delicious member of the cabbage family Brassicaceae).

It’s probably too much to ask for a simpler approach. But I’d rather see the common names of the vegetables, mostly cabbage brethren, used instead. Maybe something along the lines of “collard tops.”

For a different take on raab, check out this post from the Portland Farmers' Market blog.

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Roasted Rhubarb

I love the taste of rhubarb, and growing up I ate a lot of plain stewed rhubarb sprinkled with sugar. A few years ago I decided to roast some with olive oil. I liked how it kept its shape even though it got very tender. It still needed a sweetener, though, so next I drizzled it with honey, too, before roasting.

Cut 5 or 6 stalks of rhubarb into half inch pieces. Toss them with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (a couple of tablespoons worth) and abut the same amount of honey. Spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with flor de sal, and roast at 350F for about 20 minutes.

I eat this with yogurt, spooned over a slice of olive oil cake, or all by itself.

Olive-Oil Cake with Honey-Roasted Rhubarb
By Jim Dixon, from the Jim Dixon collection at

I adapted this cake recipe from Tenuta di Capezzana, the Tuscan olive-oil producer. It’s easy and incredibly delicious. The rhubarb, however, was my own invention. I started just roasting it with olive oil, then sprinkling it with sugar to eat, but the honey works much better. I also like how the rhubarb holds its shape, instead of breaking down like it does when you stew it. We ate a lot of rhubarb growing up, and it’s one of my favorite things, but I’m adamant about never mixing it with strawberries.

For the cake:
3 eggs
2½ c. sugar
1 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 c. milk
Grated zest of 2-3 oranges or lemons
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Large pinch of salt

For the rhubarb topping:
6 stalks rhubarb
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil1/3-1/2 c. honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-inch cake pan (I usually make this in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet).

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar. Add the olive oil, milk, and citrus zest.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring just until blended. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. I let the cake cool in the skillet and serve it directly from the pan, but you could let it cool completely, loosen the sides with a knife, and invert onto a serving plate (hold the plate against the cake pan and flip; hopefully it will come out in one piece).

While the cake is baking, slice a half-dozen or so rhubarb stalks into half-inch pieces. Toss them with a few tablespoons of olive oil, then arrange on a sheet pan and drizzle with about ½ cup honey. Roast at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let cool and spoon over slices of olive-oil cake.


Skylor said...

Rhubarb and Raab are things I have little experience with- I am really excited about this post!

Kathleen Bauer said...

I just chopped a bunch of raab into 1-2"pieces and sautéed it with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a little balsamic, then mixed it with pasta for a terrific main course. Let me know how your experiments turn out!