Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My first foray into the world of rhubarb. AKA "red celery" ... the heck???

After spending Saturday at the Pioneer Woman's Ranch and watching Deb from Smitten Kitchen make Rhubarb Crumb Cake (and on a side note, did you know that Ree and Deb are, like, my best friends EVER?!?!?!) and then getting to eat a piece, two pieces ok, fine, I ate half the cake, are you happy that I've confessed??? .... I knew from personal experience what a yummy dessert it was.

So when I found out I needed to bring a dessert to a PTO function this Friday, I blurted out, "I'll bring Rhubarb Crumb Cake!!" And when I found out our Supper Club is meeting this Saturday night, and its potluck, again I said, "Pick me! Pick me for dessert! All hail the Rhubarb Crumb Cake!!"

The great thing about the dessert (besides the phenomenal taste and ginormous crumbly goodness) is that it can be made with ingredients I already have in my pantry. (Ha! I typed the word "panty" by mistake and spell-check didn't even catch it!) (Sorry, that's disgusting. Yet somehow funny.) All but two --- cake flour and rhubarb. And what, exactly, **IS** rhubarb, anyway? A fruit? A vegetable? Some kind of fruit-vegetable hybrid? All I know is when my new best friend Deb cut it up the other day, it looked like red celery. So really, how hard could it be to find? Just go to the produce section and look for red celery.

Today was my monthly shopping trip to the military commissary, so I headed with aim and purpose down the "baking stuff" aisle, straight to the flour. Where I stood for a solid minute, looking at the eleven million different kind of flour --- no cake flour. I squinted my eyes, searched again --- no cake flour. Clearly, this necessitated a call to Alisa, since she ate the same cake on Saturday and had the same recipe.

"No, I'm telling you, it's not here. I see unbleached flour, whole-wheat flour, bread flour, enriched flour, all-purpose flour, pastry flour, and self-rising flour. No cake flour. You don't think our BFF Deb was tricking us, do you?" While Alisa assured me on the other end of the phone that there really IS such a thing as cake flour, a shopper pushing her buggy in the other direction overhead me and pointed to the cake flour --further down the aisle and packaged in a box, of all things. No wonder I couldn't find it. If it doesn't have a neon sign with an arrow, I'm lost.

Then, all I had left to get was the red celery rhubarb. I'm not even kidding, I wasn't sure whether to look in the fruit section or the vegetable section, but after perusing both, no luck. I asked an employee, who confirmed they don't typically carry rhubarb because it is considered a "seasonal speciality item" but that I might want to try back in September. Um ..... that's not going to work. Two parties this weekend, and I'm on official Rhubarb Crumb Cake duty.

So I went to another grocery store .... then another .... still no luck. I was starting to get a little worried, although Deb's recipe states that frozen blueberries can be a substitute, so at least I knew I wasn't out of luck completely.

Finally, a store #4, success! Rhubarb! A tiny bunch of red celery-looking stalks, with HUMUNGO leaves attached, sold by weight. Thank goodness leaves don't weigh very much, right?

So wish me luck. I bought enough to make both desserts, and am crossing my fingers I can do half as good a job as Deb did. I think as long a I close my eyes and pretend I'm back at Pioneer Woman's Ranch, I can accomplish anything.


Anonymous said...

I have to admit, I have no freaking idea what the hell rhubarb is. I saw the recipe on PW's site. I saw the rhubarb was red, I saw it being cut up. But what is it? I have never eaten rhubarb in my whole life (at least knowingly) and I am almost 47! Not only that, but I have never even SEEN rhubarb. What does it taste like? Have I been missing out?

Danielle said...

Good luck with the baking! I think it is totally awesome you went to The Ranch and met PW. I hope to be lucky enough to go someday.

Christina said...

You do know the leaves are inedible right? Kinda poisionous and I only know it because it grew in my grandmas garden and that point was repeated into me because I would try anything...

Anonymous said...

I've always known what rhubarb is, but I never knew the leaves were poinsonous. I'll be sure not to tell my oldest son or he'll eat some for sure.

Welcome to the world of rhubarb, the single ingredient which will require OVERLOADS of sugar. If you want to see a funny look on someone's face, hand them a stalk of it (sans leaves, thank you) and tell them to take a bite. It'll screw them right into the ground. (Not sure exactly what that means, but it's a funny expression my mom always says.)

Oh.....I didn't leave a separate message on your post about your "rants", but I realized what a stalker . . . I mean, "avid reader" . . . I am when I recalled those links were about without even clicking on them. You'll be happy to know that I've been a donor for 25 years (um, yeah, since I was TEN, right?).

I also donated our youngest son's cord blood for research, so he was a donor the moment he was born. It's such an easy thing to do (at the time, you had to make arrangements in advance of the birth to donate cord blood), and I just pray that they continue to learn to do lots and lots of amazing things with it.

Back to the rhubarb . . . remember, lots and LOTS of sugar!

Claire in Indiana

JoAnn said...

I'm a newbie to your blog and thought I'd delurk to say - I've got rhubarb growing in my backyard. I live in Wisconsin and it's pretty abundant around here. If your climate is right, get some from a nursery - it's pretty easy to grow and comes back every year. You can even chop it up and freeze it to use in winter.
I'll be interested to see how your dessert turns out as I also made a copy of that recipe to try - once my rhubarb is ready to be picked.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your crumb cake! I love SK (and now PW, too) and all her recipes. I made SK's cream cheese pound cake after scaling down the recipe and it turned out pretty terrific. I really enjoyed your post of your day at The Lodge. LindaNJ

lynne said...

What you don't have tinned rhubarb in America? Wait, I guess you don't have tinned prunes or grapefruit? Fruit cocktail? to my mothers generation (world war 2 child) tinned grapefruit at the breakfast table is pretty much a luxury. Adding maraschino cherries? Way too fancy :)

Enjoy your rhubarb crumb cake it sounds luscious.

sallyjo said...

We had rhubarb on the farm in Iowa. I never cared for it although my mom made a strawberry rhubarb pie that she took to many social events. The strawberries cut the tartness of the rhubarb. . .as well as a lot of sugar.

Alisa said...

I think that I will have to put some rhubarb in the garden this summer- and from the sound of how hard it was to find (and the price) the kids can sell it alongside their lemonade.
I laughed that someone said to have sugar with it.
No problem with this recipe!
Can't wait to eat it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I have ever seen it in a store either now that you mention it. We did however, steal it out of the neighbors yard when we were kids in Alaska. I remember sittin on the fence and eating it...don't remember it being yummy; I think it was all about the "get". I don't ever remember the neighbor telling us not to eat the leaves. Maybe she was trying to poison us to keep us out of her garden. Serves us right. Can't wait to eat it with my umbrella drinks! :)Kim

Anonymous said...

I have rhubarb in my back year...a whole lot ot it!

Cathy in MI said...

I have never thought to get rhubarb in a store because we have it in the yard - you need to plant some!

lizinsumner said...

{{{sigh}}}....I'm still over in the corner pouting because Washington state is NOT exactly within driving distance of P-Dub's ranch and the jealousy is all-consuming, BUT - I have every bit of faith that you can pull off the rhubarb crumbcake. As someone who, as a child, used to continuously turn up my nose at my grandmother's rhubarb-insertvariousfruitshere-pie, I will have to try it. Anxious to hear how it turns out!!

Gram said...

I see that other people have already told you that the leaves are poisionous. I have rhubarb in my backyard so I have never had to search for it, but have seen it in the grocery store, but only in the spring, unless it is frozen and I have never looked. So enjoy it now.

Anonymous said...

My grandpa, when he was alive, grew rhubarb in his garden. Don't eat it raw its gross.

Dianna in Louisiana said...

Wow Kristie..... Rhubarb Crumb Cake..... it's sounds SO fancy! I've been having tons of fun reading your posts about your visit to "the ranch." I often visit the PW site through your link and she makes me lol, just as you do! I think I may have actually peed myself when I listened to the recordings of her and her brother on the telephone some time back. And, I must agree with her 100%...... your hair is freakin' amazing!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I followed a link over here from Pioneer Woman's blog.

Lop off the leaves and ditch them in the produce section. They should have done that when they prepped them for sale. I've never seen any store, farm stand or farmers market sell rhubarb with the leaves still attached. No point in paying for something that isn't edible anyway.

Rhubarb technically is a vegetable (botanically speaking), but I've always treated it as a very tart fruit.

I love rhubarb. Sadly not such a great thing for a diabetic that doesn't like artificial sweeteners. It sure has pucker power without sugar. I think rhubarb is off limits for me now.

Anonymous said...

Oh and I found this on wikipedia:

The roots have been used as an aggressive laxative for over 5,000 years.[14] The roots and stems are rich in anthraquinones, such as emodin and rhein. These substances are cathartic and laxative, which explains the sporadic use of rhubarb as a slimming agent.

Tammy said...

Kristi, after rubbing elbows with Ree and Smitten, you'll do a fine job with that rhubarb cake! A slimming agent, are you kidding me? Get me a shovel and some rhubarb seads, I'm on it, lol! Hugs from Fort Worth!

Pam D said...

Hmm. From the way rhubarb has been described, I hope that whomever is hosting Supper Club has a working bathroom. Or two. Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Ok, SERIOUSLY - if you ever, ever feel self-conscious about yourself, (which you are stunning, and have no reason to) go over to Ree's site and see how she called your hair LUSTROUS!! NICE! Lucky - you got to hang w/her and she's gushing over you and your hair. Does it better than that? Seriously??


Patti B.

Jeanette in GA said...

You can make your own cake flour by using All Purpose flour, remove 2 TBSP and replace with cornstarch...if you are ever in a pinch!

Seriously-I need your wonderful potato salad recipe! You know, the kind that tastes like a loaded baked potato?

Email it to me if you get the chance!

kimi said...


I'm cracking up! We used to grow it in our backyard and walk around eating it after dipping it in sugar (think strawberries, only better!).

You've inspired me to make a rhubarb dessert this weekend.

Thanks for sharing!


Headache-for-sale-Mom to:

Daniel-14 (pray for me)

Anonymous said...

panty is a word, that's why spell-check didn't catch it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I felt the need to add the above comment... sorry. But just so you know, if a word is spelled correctly, no matter how you use it in a sentence, spell-check won't catch it.

You have an interesting blog. :)

Gina (ks) said...

I followed you over here from PW! I've enjoyed reading your blog. You are very funny...:0)
Good Luck with the rhubarb crumb cake. Can't wait to hear how it turns out. I think I may have to go on a search and find some rhubarb and make it myself.

debbie said...

I love rhubarb, and when it's out of season you can usually find frozen rhubarb. I can't wait to try the Rhubarb Crumb Cake recipe. If you have extra rhubarb, google rhubarb stew, it is delicious over ice cream.
Debbie E
Peachtree City, GA

Bethany said...

To the Anonymous person who suggested leaving the leaves in the produce section- That is stealing. Yes, the store should have removed them before placing them out, but that's like pulling grapes off the stem before purchase b/c you don't eat the grape stems.

Kristie- Are you POSITIVE you got rhubarb and not something like Swiss chard? There's an actual vegetable that looks like red celery that is sold with the leaves attached. Good luck!

Sandie said...

I grew up in Duluth, MN and we had rhubarb growing in our backyard garden. (It must be a hardy sucker because the weather there changes by like 50 degrees in a day.)

We cracked it off and dipped it in a bowl of sugar to eat it. As children of the 70's, we didn't even wash it first and we all shared the same sugar cup. yum yum!