I recognize that it’s almost officially summer. But it feels like “Juneuary” right now. I’m still bundled up. My new garden seems to be confused as well. Seedlings are slow to take off. I’ve lost a few of my tomato plants already (anyone knit sweaters for tomato plants?!) Some seeds which should take 10 days to emerge are still hiding under the cold blanket of soil. I know that the heat is just around the corner but since I grew up in the Midwest even the “heat” that we get here is relatively mild (and that’s why I love living here!) Enduring a summer in the Midwest will cure you of your woes. My entire garden is new so the cool weather and rain seems like a blessing–especially since the new plantings do not have to struggle to get established.
Nevertheless I have been picking rhubarb for weeks (love to roast it with brown sugar and vanilla) and my new strawberry plants are starting to produce delicious berries that are better than candy. There is nothing better than picking a strawberry and eating it promptly. Just thinking about it brings up so many memories of berry picking adventures in the woods of Missouri, the farms in New England and the PNW.
My father’s favorite pie was strawberry rhubarb. My mother would pick up the fruit at Soulard’s Market in St. Louis, Missouri. I loved to go with her and sample whatever the farmers would gift me. There was always a sense of discovery for me when I tagged along with her. The tastes and smells live on. I would “help” her make the pie for my father. But to be honest, I did not like rhubarb growing up–something about the texture was off-putting to me. I always picked out the strawberries from the pie. Many years ago I used to sous chef for Laurie Pfalzer of Pastry Craft and she taught me about combining rhubarb with a mixture of sugar and vanilla and roasting until tender (but not mushy). It changed everything for me. I immediately planted rhubarb in my garden and have never looked back. All those years ago father knew best.
Here is a very simple but delicious sauce. It’s lovely with yogurt and granola in the morning. It’s divine served over pound cake or shortcake with whipped cream. It’s luscious with vanilla ice cream as well. This sauce it easy to prepare and keeps well in the refrigerator. I have used fresh and frozen fruit and it turns into a nice sauce every time.
Take advantage of the bounty of the farmer’s market or your own berry patch. This sauce is just the beginning of a Pacific Northwest summer of edible delights.
Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce
1 lb. fresh or frozen strawberries, stems and white cores removed
2 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen
1 orange, zested and juiced (optional)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until strawberries and rhubarb begin to release juices and soften, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat and using a potato masher or back of a large spoon, mash the fruit to create a smooth sauce while keeping some texture. Let the sauce cool. Store in a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate for two weeks.
— By Deborah Binder
Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted email@example.com.