shaved asparagus and pea salad with rhubarb vinigrette.

I love the Friday Greenmarket at Union Square, It is my favorite day to go as it is usually quite mellow there early in the morning. This week I met my friend Nancy Jo there. She is a crazy wild amazing intuitive cook and we generally bond over the baby Tuscan kale, the sweetest berries and the eggs from the Amish farmer. She gives the wave off to any produce she deems unacceptable like my Nonna in her flowered house dress. We talk about we ate that week and what we are going to make that weekend and then we dash off to work.

This past Friday we bought peas, pea shoots, asparagus, rhubarb, radishes, beets and summer savory. She had a plan to recreate a salad from Roman's and I wanted to continue my rhubarb lust by making a simple spring salad  with a rhubarb dressing.

 

Shaved Asparagus and Shell Pea Salad With Rhubarb Vinaigrette

This is a raw salad.

 

For The Salad

Ingredients;

 

6 stalks of asparagus

A handful of Fresh shell peas

 A handful of Fresh Mint

A handful of Pea Shoots

Shave the asparagus into long ribbons with a mandolin or a small shaver.

Arrange half on each plate

Shell the peas and divide between the two salad plates

Add a few pea shoots and some fresh mint and a few micro greens.

 

Makes 2 portions

 

 

Don't feel limited to my suggestions; throw on a few your favorite microgreens if you feel like it or some chives or chive blossom. I used beet micro greens and a ramp scape to pretty it up because that is what i had on hand and they are deliscious.

 

For the Dressing;

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

 

1 stalk of Rhubarb

1 shallot (I used a ramp bulb because I was out of shallot)

2 tblsp. raw apple cider vinegar

2 tblsp. sugar

3 juniper berries

1/3 cup water

Makes about 1/2 cup

 

Chop the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces

Crush the juniper berries with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon until just broken

Combine the rhubarb, the juniper berries the sugar and the waterr in a pan

Simmer the rhubarb, the juniper berries,the sugar and 1/3 cup of water in non reactive pan for about 5 minutes or until soft and tender. It should fall apart. Puree or strain through a sieve into a small bowl and set aside to cool. 

In the meantime; chop the shallot finely.

Add the shallot to the cooled rhubarb vinegar mixture.

Spoon the dressing over the salad and top with a really good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Add a pinch of sea salt and cracket black pepper on top

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rhubarb shrub and other musings.

I am a bit of a Rhubarb fool. I tend to go crazy for this plant when it first appears in the late days of spring. I mark many of my internal calendars by the first sightings of plants, a by-product of growing up in the country and living by an agricultural calendar. Now, as a city dweller, I rely on the farmer’s markets or trips upstate for these visual cues. For me, wild strawberries hark the last days of school, lily of the valley marks May Day, violets, mothers day, and rhubarb the hot imminent approach of endless summer. These days with time literally flying by and working in an industry that is always months ahead of itself, I try to savor every one of those moments when they come.

This past week, while shooting the Four and Twenty Blackbirds book, we came across some amazing rhubarb given to the pie shop by a farmer from upstate New York. At the end of the day I was more than happy to take some rhubarb home and cull a post that has been brewing in my mind for days!

I first turn to Nigel Slater’s amazing Tender Volume Two. He offers a great synopsis of rhubarb; ”It was the darling of the Victorian kitchen, finding it’s way into pies, fools, crumbles and tarts quite by chance.” Rhubarb, according to Nigel Slater, had been used medicinally since 2700 BC. The British apothecaries grew tired of paying high prices to the Chinese importers and decided they could import plants and grow their own. Unfortunately, they imported a less potent strain of the plant which turned out to not be as successful for medicine but a more edible version. So this is how, more or less, it came to be in British kitchens.

How it got to America is another story…

A month or so ago when Back Forty West first opened in my neighborhood in the old Savoy they had a great cocktail on the menu called “Surrender Dorothy”. It was some version of Dorothy Parker Gin and pomegranite shrub. It quickly disappeared, and being a gin lover I was somewhat disappointed when they told me that they could no longer make it because they were out of the shrub and would not have anymore until pomegranites appeared again in the market. Now that rhubarb is in season I have decided to make some of shrub of my own! 

Different than a fruit syrup, a shrub or drinking vinegar is concentrated syrup made from ripe fruit, sugar and  vinegar.

I came across many different shrub recipes on line and in old cookbooks. Some were a hot process shrub and some were for a cold process shrub. I decided to try the cold process as it makes for a brighter flavor. There were also a plethora of conflicting ideas on the amount of sugar to fruit. I decided to go for equal parts sugar, fruit and vinegar for the simple reason that it would be easy to commit to memory. Shrubs take some time to make as the fruit needs to macerate and then rest for a few days before straining and adding the vinegar. I best get on with it if I want to be sipping an adapted version of Surrender Dorothy by week’s end!

If you don't like gin, no worries! Shrubs combine nicely with seltzer for a lovely non-alcoholic drink! (1part shrub to 2-4 parts seltzer, add more or less to taste.)

 

 

Cold Process Rhubarb Shrub:

 

8 cups chopped rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces (this was approximately two large bunches of rhubarb from the green market)

8 cups sugar

 

Combine the sugar and the fruit in a large non-reactive (preferably glass) bowl. Mash or muddle the fruit a bit with a pestle to get it started macerating. Cover and set aside on a counter out of the sun for  24-72 hours.

Strain the fruit from the liquid with a fine mesh or cheese cloth. (I did mine in two batches.) Now here is the tricky part... I have read different accounts on this next step. You can add the vinegar to the fruit after 72 hours and let the fruit and the vinegar and the sugary syrup mellow all together for a week out of the refridgerator covered before straining, or you can strain the fruit from the sugary syrup at this point. I chose the latter, to strain the fruit and discard it after 72 hours. I then measured my sugary rhubarb liquid and added an equal and matching amount of vinegar. I poured this into a clean jar and set it tightly sealed in my pantry to mellow and age for a week. After a week I tasted it and it was both tart and sweet with a bright rhubarb note, though it smells strongly of vinegar. At this point I put it in the refridgerator for long term storage.

 

There is a great article on the history of shrubs both hot and cold process here on Serious Eats. It seems everyone from bloggers to The Old Joy of Cooking make it a little differently. I think it is all about experimentation. I used apple cider vinegar while others used balsamic or champagne. I will undoubtedly try it both hot and cold processed at some point and next time I will combine the fruit and vinegar and leave for a week to see how that turns out. So get your shrub on and let me know how it works out and if you have any great tips!

 

Click here for an interesting shrub recipe and some wisdom on technique.

 

BACK FORTY WEST'S SURRENDER DOROTHY:

Dorothy Parker gin, pomegranate shrub, lemon, and cinnebark syrup (substitute rhubarb shrub)

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After 24 hours

After 24 hours

After 72 hours

After 72 hours

 Rhubarb syrup and apple cider vinegar combined in a sterilized jar. Leave to set out for one week.

 Rhubarb syrup and apple cider vinegar combined in a sterilized jar. Leave to set out for one week.