It’s been a while since my last post and a much longer break than I’ve ever taken since starting this blog. It seems my life has gotten in the way of my hobby a bit, but it’s my hope that with the farmer’s markets now open and fresh produce (slowly) coming in, it’ll be easier to find the motivation to get back in the kitchen!
With that said, we can move on to more important things, like rhubarb.
Every year I get so excited for the first outdoor market of the season that I rush over with hopes of finding an overwhelming variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. And of course, every year I leave with just two items: rhubarb and asparagus.
It’s just the way it is here – May equals leftover apples and potatoes from the fall and fresh rhubarb and asparagus. It’s like they’re the starter vegetables warming us up for the real thing to come.
This year I wanted to do something simple but a little unique with the rhubarb. Playing off it’s tart qualities, I decided to mimic the sweet and sour flavors of lemon squares by making rhubarb squares with an almond crust.
These treats were a gooey, sweet-sour combination with a crunchy almond crust and are were enough to convince me that summer might actually get here soon. Or at least convince me that the wait won’t so bad…
Try the Rhubarb Almond Squares for a pre-summer fix!
Rhubarb Almond Squares – makes 16 squares
4 cups (1 pound) fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Almond Crust (adapted from Bon Appetit)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup whole almonds
To make the filling, combine the rhubarb, sugar, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Set over medium heat and stir frequently until the water begins to simmer and the sugar dissolves. Decrease the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring every minute, until the rhubarb falls apart and becomes very soft and the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. Stir in the vanilla bean paste and cool slightly in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Prepare the almond crust while the filling is cooking: Line an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times until blended. Add the cold cubed butter and almonds and pulse until the almonds are finely chopped and a coarse meal forms. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture.
Press the remaining mixture evenly into the prepared pan with your hands, going about 1/4-inch up the sides as well. Bake the crust at 350°F until it just begins to brown along the edges, about 18 to 20 minutes.
Finish the rhubarb filling while the crust bakes: Whisk the two eggs in a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of the warm rhubarb mixture. Mix well, then add a bit more, repeating until all the rhubarb has been added (this method is called tempering and is intended to prevent the eggs from curdling by being mixed with hot ingredients). Whisk in 1 tablespoon butter then pour the mixture evenly into the hot baked almond crust. Sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup crust mixture over the top.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until the filling is set (it won’t move much when you jiggle the pan but will still be springy to the touch). Cool completely and cut into 16 pieces.