Island Cooking

Brunch and Rhubarb

by Chef Jenn Farmer

With Mother’s Day and the Wine Festival coming up, I have been thinking about one of my favorite meals: brunch (or, more accurately, champagne or bloody Mary brunch).  Although being a single parent and an early morning person limits the chances of me getting to eat brunch, I still love the idea.  Laden with something for everyone: salty, sweet, healthy, and decadent, and served at your leisure.  Yep I think, brunch is sort of the perfect meal, since everything goes!

Also when I think of spring and of brunch I imagine rhubarb.  It is such a special food, since it can be used in savory or in sweet dishes.  It is also unique because of its very limited growing season, and thus availability, so I go all out during rhubarb season.  So far this year I have made rhubarb and tart cherry bbq sauce, rhubarb crisp topped with Greek strained yogurt, rhubarb pie, rhubarb bread, and rhubarb jam.   I sometimes even make syrup with it and add it to a little plain seltzer water or champagne for an extra special spring brunch cocktail.

Rhubarb is on my menu at least once a day until the beloved stalks no longer grace our grocery shelves.  On the farm where I grew up, my grandmother had a plot of the stuff.  I remember vividly the first time she asked me to go and cut some for her to cook up.  I was enamored of the leaves, which are dark green and impressively large.  Sadly, that part is not edible, but the gorgeous ruby stalks are.  It also has a very unique smell, and I just love the squeaky smooth skin of the stalks when they are freshly cut.  Just the sound they make when chopping them makes me happy.  They feel and sound crisp and the aroma matches the texture, very clean and bright.  Not to mention it is so pretty when it is cooked.  Enjoy it while it lasts, because summer is on its way at last.

Rhubarb and Champagne Sorbet

  • 1 lb. Rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup champagne
  • 3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 and one quarter cup sugar

Bring the Champagne, sugar and lemon to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the rhubarb and bring it back up to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the rhubarb is very soft, this should take 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.  Puree the rhubarb until it is very smooth.  Cool completely in the refrigerator.

To make a smooth and creamy style sorbet, use an ice cream maker to freeze the mixture (follow the manufacturer’s directions).  For a simple, rustic sorbet put the sorbet into a shallow pan and place into the freezer.  After about 2 hours stir the mixture, it should be slushy.  Continue to stir the mixture every half hour or so, until the sorbet is the desired firmness.  It is time consuming, so plan ahead if you are making this for an event. Another way to make the sorbet creamier is to follow the freezer directions, but when the sorbet is nearly frozen, remove from the pan and use a blender to aerate the mixture, and then return it to the freezer until it is all set up.

One note of advice, if you want a very professional looking presentation, scoop the sorbet before it sets up completely.  Next place the neat scoops into pre-chilled serving bowls or platters.  Pre-chilling them keeps the sorbet from melting on contact and looking sloppy.  Scooping the sorbet whilst it is soft helps you control the look of the product, and is easier than scooping it when it becomes rock hard. Yield = 1 quart.

I don’t always have champagne or sparkling wine in the house (I bet you thought everybody in Nantucket drinks champagne as if it was water—this is not true!),  so I have tried several types of white wine as substitutes for it in the above recipe , with great luck.  Even a nice rose works well.  Additionally I have substituted peaches or strawberries for the rhubarb, but reduced the sugar a bit, both were delicious.  In fact the other night I was drinking a nice rose sparkling wine, and eating a salad with cucumbers, strawberries, and mint;  it was complimentary  together I may try to make a sorbet with the same flavor combination.

Spring Strata
adapted from a Sunset magazine recipe

  • 1 pound asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 loaf crusty bread
  • 4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced
  • One cup asiago or romano cheese, shredded
  • One half cup chives, chopped
  • One tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 and one half cups milk
  • One tablespoon lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces (if the asparagus it thick you may want to par-blanche it before continuing the recipe), and cut the bread into one inch cubes.  Cut the prosciutto slices into thin strips.  Spread the bread out onto a lightly oiled baking pan, and top with half the prosciutto asparagus, cheese, chives, then repeat.  Whisk together the eggs and the remaining ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Pour the egg mixture carefully over the bread.  Cover and chill for at least one hour, or overnight.  Bake until the strata is set up, and the top golden brown, this usually takes 45-50 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Cosmopolitan Farmer

  • 8 ounces vodka
  • 8 ounces Rhubarb syrup
  • 2 ounces freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. orange flavored liquor (Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)

Combine the vodka, syrup, lime juice, and orange into a cocktail shaker, with ice and shake.  Strain off the ice and pour into 4 martini glasses or mason jars, whichever you have handy.

Rhubarb Syrup

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 lemons, juiced

Cook the rhubarb with the water until the rhubarb is very soft, strain pressing through a sieve to capture as much juice as possible.  Measure the liquid and measure it.  Add enough water to the juice to make 2 cups of liquid.  Add the sugar and heat in a sauce pan until it dissolves, – this should take 6-10 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and let it cool.  For a more finished looking syrup strain into jar and tightly seal.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.  Yields about one and two third cups syrup.

Articles by Date from 2012