Simple, Rich and Old-fashioned

No - the title does not describe my last surviving aunt. If it did, the title would be "Simple, Rich and Dead Under Mysterious Circumstances That Points To Rose's Last Surviving Uncle". But I digress...

Pop with a patron

Saturday, I had the chance to go to the Worthington Farmer's Market - something rare these days. I was kinda disappointed - most produce was priced pretty high (being the cheapskate I am, I can't bring myself to buy hot house tomatoes or hydroponic lettuce) and there were way too many people offering baked goods. As I made my way around the market, I stopped in and visited a few old friends. The folks over a Meade Farms had tons of heirloom tomato plants for sale, so I bought a couple from them. The other booth I always make a bee-line for is Pop and Judy's. They do a wonderful job of growing the stuff I am willing to spend my hard earned cash on. This time it was an old favorite of mine, rhubarb. My parents had rhubarb in their extensive garden, and it had been years since I had been able to grab some fresh picked. The secret to really great rhubarb is to get small stems, before they get large and spongy or stringy. Pop and Judy's was just perfect and the price was right too - $2.50 for a pound bundle.

Since I had rhubarb, I needed some strawberries. The sad part is - strawberries are in season, but only one person had them at the market. The cost? $5/ quart!!!! No way! and they weren't even ripe! So, I headed over to Meijer and picked up a two pound pack. Not as good as home picked, but damn it! I gotta get my fix!

The best thing about strawberries and rhubarb is that you can do a minimalist approach to it and they still taste fantastic...

Rhubarb Compote or Stewed Rhubarb

1 pound of rhubarb, cleaned and cut up into 1inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sour you like it. I went with 1/4 cup!)
2 t of lemon zest

To clean rhubarb: First - never ever ever use the leafy part of rhubarb!!! It is poisonous!!! Cut off the leafy end of the stems and trim the bottom end. Wash to remove any dirt. The next step is optional. It all depends on big the stems are. Larger stems will have string in them (kinda like celery) and you have to peel them off to keep the compote from being tough and stringy. It's easy though. You just take a paring knife and grab the skin at one end. Pull and the strings will come right out along the whole length of the stalk.

Cut up the rhubarb, toss with the sugar and lemon zest. It then sat at room temperature for about an hour. This brings out the natural juices and keeps the flavors from being diluted. When you have about 1/4-1/2 cup of syrup in the bottom of the pan, simmer on medium heat for 7-10 minutes, until soft and cooked through. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.

That's it!

Strawberries are even easier.

Strawberries for shortcake

Clean and cut up the strawberries into slices. Toss with about 1/4 -1/2 cup of sugar depending on amount of strawberries. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to bring out the juices then refrigerate.

Almost done!

I wanted something that would be serve as a base for stewed rhubarb and strawberries.

Then I though back to a dessert I had forgotten about - pound cake. I used to make pound cakes quite often about twenty years ago. My mother was very fond of them - chocolate pound cakes, lemon pound cakes, sour cream pound cakes, you name it - if it had a pound of butter in it, my mom loved it. I have tons of recipes from all over, but I just wanted a plain, simply cake that would set off the fruit.

I dug around in my cookbooks and settled on the Marion Cunningham version of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I picked it up for $1.00 at Half Price books a while back and it has been a fantastic resource. My hubby has a not so secret crush on Marion ever since he saw her on Baking with Julia a couple years back. Knowing that I use her recipes probably adds to his enjoyment in some perverse way...

With a cake this simple, it is really important that you use only the freshest ingredients. I actually went as far as to purchase a pound of Plugra ($2.28/pound wholesale) for the pound cake - in something this basic you can taste the difference. Plus, you never want to use a butter that has any off flavors - yummmm onion flavored pound cake!

Also, a low gluten flour is important here. If you have some White Lily or other low gluten AP around, you could try it instead...

The hubby started picking at the cake as soon as it came out of the oven - bad Tony!


1 9 x 5-INCH LOAF

½ pound butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla, or ½ teaspoon mace

5 eggs

2 cups cake flour

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and lightly flour a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan. Cream the butter, slowly add the sugar, and beat until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each in well. Stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla or mace, and combine well. Spoon into the pan and bake for 75 to 90 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack. Serve very thin slices.

Oh yeah baby - look at that fine moist crumb. You know you want it!

Strawberry and Rhubarb Longcake

I can't really call it strawberry and rhubarb shortcake - 'cuz there ain't nothing "short" about it. It's long on flavor, long on looks and long on calories...

If you really want to gild the lily you can top everything off with whipped cream. Bar none - this is my favorite spring dessert!