Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rhubarb Tart

Photo by Sergio Salvador  www.salvadorphoto.com
Oh, I just LOVE this photo! Rhubarb is my absolute favorite spring treat – I look forward to it even more than strawberries or asparagus, maybe even more than peas. Some varieties are a gorgeous deep red, but Victoria, the variety many home gardeners grow, is mostly green. I love its tanginess tempered with plenty of sugar in pie, sorbet, trifle, or just plain sauce. I've been making rhubarb soda with the sauce and a little seltzer water. I'm really excited to try making a rhubarb barbecue sauce this year. But this tart might be the most beautiful way I know to serve rhubarb.

Baking the rhubarb allows it to keep its shape and color. I first had a tart like this at the fabulous P'tit Louis Bistro downtown, made with tiny green rhubarb stalks, and I've been meaning to re-create it ever since. I think the secret is to macerate the rhubarb in sugar and let it sit overnight to absorb some of the sugar, and by this logic it may actually be better to use small stalks.

3-4 large rhubarb stalks (or a big handful of small ones)
A few sprigs of lemon verbena or zest of an orange (optional)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1 pre-made pie crust or puff pastry
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Trim the ends off the rhubarb stalks and cut them into roughly square pieces. Toss with sugar and chopped lemon verbena or zest, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lay the pastry in a pie plate or square baking dish, folding the edges over to fit. Strain the juice from the rhubarb to remove the lemon verbena leaves. If there is a lot of juice, pour it into a saucepan and begin simmering to reduce it. Arrange the chunks of rhubarb in a single layer on the crust. I like to do an alternating pattern, by turning each piece so the ribs face the opposite way from the one next to it, so that it looks like lattice. When the liquid is reduced to a small enough amount of syrup that it won't overflow the crust, drizzle it evenly over the top of the tart. Bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serves 4.
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