Rhubarb isn’t a really common food around Texas. Apparently, if you mention rhubarb around these parts, the response you are likely to get is “What’s that?”, or “You’re not from around here, are you?”. I also got “Isn’t that green?” as a response from more than one person. (Well, yes, sometimes it’s kinda green, with some red…) While I didn’t grow up eating this vegetable-parading-around-as-fruit, I do have a very fond memory of my great aunt, who lives in Washington, making us a rhubarb crisp when we visited one summer. Actually, I have quite a few fond memories of that summer. You see, my great aunt and uncle live in this little house on the southern portion of the bay, a ways from Tacoma and Olympia. Their house is a drive from any major city, and you’d get lost if you didn’t know where you were going trying to find the place. But as you pull up, the tall, evergreen trees are everywhere. The front of the house is across the street from what feels like endless amounts of forest. It’s quiet, except for the sounds of birds. As you walk around the side of the house, there are trees and huckleberry bushes. The back of the house is on stilts, and below is a rocky beach. As a young girl, this was paradise. I remember spending all day outdoors while we were there, playing. I’d go down to the beach and watch gulls and peer at distant neighbors, digging for clams in the sandy spots. I’d catch as many hermit crabs as any one girl could carry. I even helped a hurt baby chipmunk (I say helped, I might have simply frightened him more by picking him up, showing my Mom, and eventually releasing him back into the woods). I remember going out on their deck, and how relaxing and beautiful the entire place was. But I also remember meandering into the kitchen, hungry from playing, to find my grandmother, great aunt and Mom working and talking. And that rhubarb crisp! It was slightly tart, sweet, and so delicious. Unbelievably so.
And then I proceeded to not eat rhubarb again, that I can recall, for 20 years or so. But still the wonder of this vegetable, and that memory, holds its grip on my attention.
Being a food blogger is a funny thing. Over time, you read a lot of other food blogs. A LOT. I’ve been blogging for nearly four years, and I’ve learned so much about seasons and all types of foods from all areas of the world and even in my own country in that time. For instance, in spring, people in the Northeast part of the U.S. rave about ramps and fiddleheads, two things I’ve always been curious about, but have never even seen in person before. Of course, I imagine there are quite a few of those bloggers that have never seen purple hull peas, okra, or nopales (cactus), things that are pretty common around here. It’s part of what I love about food – there are still some delightful things that can only be found in certain regions. I hope it stays that way – it makes food special.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to try to experience foods outside my region. Like rhubarb. I’ve only recently seen it in grocery stores in the past few years, but that’s only in frozen bags. However, this summer, all of a sudden, I’ve seen it everywhere – at higher-end groceries and even the normal Kroger down the street from me. Big, juicy red stalks of rhubarb. So I set aside my “I usually try to eat local” mindset, and viewed it as a sign. I’d have to try my hand at making something with rhubarb.
And so I did. First on the list? A rhubarb crisp, of course. It wasn’t anything special, and not much different than this peach-pear crisp – only I substituted chopped walnuts for the almonds, and threw some quinoa flakes in there. But it was tasty. Not as good as the memory of my first (Isn’t that the funny thing about food memories?), but good nonetheless. The real challenge (and success), though, was muffins.
These muffins were based on a gluten-full recipe. If any of you have tried to convert a regular recipe to a gluten-free version, you know it’s not always just about substituting one flour for another. Besides, I have to throw dairy-free in there as well, so I have to exercise a lot of freedom in my adaptations. This means that my recipes don’t always turn out the first, second, or even third times. However, this one was perfect right out of the gate. Fluffy, moist, lightly sweet muffins, studded with sweet-tart rhubarb and chopped walnuts. They make the perfect hearty breakfast or afternoon snack, and they showcase this lovely vegetable in a way that makes my heart smile. My coworkers have been enjoying them all week long (many of which were the same people wondering what rhubarb was). They also freeze well, so feel free to bake some up and then store some away for future breakfasts. This recipe makes 2 dozen muffins, so there will be plenty of extras. Feel free to halve the recipe as well.
While I’m not likely to start buying rhubarb often, it’s lovely to find it once a season, bake up these muffins, and relive those childhood memories.
Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free)
1 1/4 c brown rice flour
1 1/4 c sorghum flour
3/4 c potato starch
2 T ground flaxseed meal
1 T psyllium husk
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t kosher salt
2 eggs at room temperature
1 c non-dairy milk (I used coconut milk beverage, but almond milk or hemp milk could also be used)
1 T apple cider vinegar
3/4 c coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/4 c coconut palm sugar
1/4 c agave nectar or honey
1 c chopped walnuts
2 c diced rhubarb, frozen or fresh
About 4 T coarse turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the brown rice flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, flaxseed, psyllium, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the non-dairy milk, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil, vanilla, coconut sugar, and agave nectar.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well to combine. Add the walnuts and rhubarb and stir again thoroughly.
Spoon 1/4 cup of batter into each cupcake paper. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Makes 2 dozen muffins.
This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays over at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free.