Rhubarb rhubarb everywhere. It is a sure sign of spring turning into summer. It means, here in the northeast U.S., peak asparagus has passed, strawberries are not far behind, and early summer lettuces are at their best. And I have a newly potted basil plant on my fire escape next to sweat peas that are appearing as thin tall shoots.
This week, rhubarb could be found at every farmer’s market around New York City, just asking to be brought home and stewed, baked, or turned into jam.
Two Junes ago I made a strawberry rhubarb pie and last year it was a rhubarb crumb cake. This year I was thinking more along the lines of caramelizing the stalks and pairing with ginger. I managed the former but forgot all about the latter. (I blame that on the fact I was baking while trying to watch the men’s French Open final.) I ended up with an upside-down cake—you melt butter and sugar in a cast-iron skillet then add the rhubarb, caramelizing the pieces and adding a flour mixture on top.
In other food-related news this week, I was lucky to dine at Brooklyn’s Mile End with my friend Daniela, where chef Eli Sussman (2014 James Beard nominee) treated us royally. Two highlights for me were the roasted sunchoke salad with curry yogurt and the cauliflower tabbouleh. On Friday I was at a meeting on Elizabeth Street and found myself face to face with the new Black Seed Bagels. Hand rolled, wood fired, best bagel I’ve had in years. Last night, after a long fun day at Rockaway Beach, I had the pleasure of eating at Greenpoint’s Selamat Pagi, serving food inspired by Bali. It’s from the team behind the delicious Van Leeuwen ice cream and Chef Jason Greenberg; as my friends said, how nice to eat something other than “new American.” Oh, and, when in Greenpoint…you must stop at Peter Pan Donuts & Pastry Shop. We got the ice cream sandwich between chocolate donut halves. What a day.
Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Kenzi Wilbur, Food52
3/4 c sugar plus scant 1/2 c
4 tbsp unsalted butter plus 1 stick and 5 tbsp cut into small cubes and chilled
Zest of one lemon
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 c whole milk
Heat the oven to 375F. Melt 3/4 c sugar, 4 tbsp butter, the lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and 1/4 tsp salt in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once the butter and sugar have melted add the rhubarb, stirring occasionally. It will take between 5 and 10 minutes for the rhubarb to cook through, depending on their size.*
In the meantime, combine the remaining sugar and salt, plus flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Add remaining butter, and using your fingers, rub into flour mixture to form coarse pea-size pieces. Add the milk and eggs and stir until a sticky dough forms. (You may need an extra splash of milk for the dough to stick together.)
Spread the dough over the warm rhubarb mixture, trying to cover the entire surface. Bake on a baking sheet until the cake is golden and cooked through, about 35 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let the cake rest for about 10 minutes. Now very carefully, place a large flat plate underneath the skillet and invert deftly. If any of the rhubarb has stuck to the skillet just scrape off and you can place back on the cake. This cake would be yummy served with unsweetened whipped cream, vanilla or ginger ice cream, or just plain of course.
*It is at this point that I intended to add about 1 tbsp of finely chopped fresh ginger! I totally forgot. You could also add about 1/4 tsp dried ginger to the flour mixture.