Garden Lessons Learned & The Best Rhubarb Tart

Earlier this month I trusted some internet information which led me to a huge garden blunder. I planted my much cared for indoor tomatoes outside too soon. The weather turned cold and especially windy just days later and being away from home I was unable to protect those beauties. Mother Nature took a toll on the plants, but they held on. Today, in spite of their ravaged leaves they continue to thrive and I am already seeing a few tomatoes. Planting a garden can teach us many lessons. Remaining strong no matter how life chooses to chew us up and spit us out is one of them. Stay calm and plant some seeds. The rewards are great.

tomato plant

Tending a garden also teaches patience. For instance, I planted rhubarb last year and I really, really, really want to pick it, but I can’t. The rule of thumb is to let the plant build its root system and strength over a three-year period before harvesting. It’s the same with asparagus. It’s been 7 years since I planted the asparagus and today we are harvesting more than we can eat. It’s a joy to share it. The reward of patience. Lesson learned

As the world is opening up so is the produce at the market. Rhubarb is plentiful in the spring, but has a short growing season. Get while the getting is good and stock up on the naturally tart stalks. This darling of a vegetable can be added to pies, muffins, quick breads and even savory dishes.

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart

ALMOND FRANGIPANE

14 cup plus 2 tablespoon sugar

14 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond paste

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

14 teaspoon baking powder

14 teaspoon kosher salt

In food processor fitted with metal blade, beat the sugar and almond paste until almond paste is chopped into small bits. Add butter; pulse just until blended. Add eggs and vanilla; blend until smooth. Scrape down the bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and pulse until just blended. Cover and chill while preparing crust.

CRUST

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

14 cup plus 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

14 cups all-purpose flour

14 teaspoon kosher salt

3 to 4 stalks fresh cut rhubarb, diced on diagonal (1/2-inch dice)

1 tablespoon sugar

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl, then beat in the egg yolk. Combine the flour and salt, then add to the bowl, beating on low speed until just incorporated. Place dough in a 9-inch round fluted tart pan. Using fingertips, press the dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan to cover in an even layer. Dock (prick) the dough every 2 inches with a fork. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet; freeze for 10 minutes or until firm.

Meanwhile, set a rack in the top third of the oven and preheat to 350°. Spoon the frangipane to the center of the tart crust, and using an offset spatula, spread evenly all the way to the edges. Individually place the chunks of rhubarb on the frangipane in a pattern you like, leaving room between the pieces. Sprinkle tart with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 40 to 45 minutes. Tart will look puffy, but then settle with cooling. Cool completely.

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Fresh Picked Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

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Warm, but overcast, yesterday was the perfect day for strawberry picking with my family. Highland Farms in West Chester, PA is the place to go for all sorts of fruit picking throughout the year. The scent of strawberries was in the air as we approached the field.

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photo by Caitlin

Do your littles watch the show Daniel Tiger? Annabelle loves the animated Mr. Rodgers version and on one episode Daniel and his friends go “fruit-picking”. My Annabelle could not wait to try it. She ate as much as she picked and was covered in warm strawberry juice by the time we were done. Want to have some fun? Go pick some berries!

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photo by Caitlin

Fresh picked berries are at their peak of sweetness compared to the more tart berries found in the grocery store, so less sugar is needed for the perfect pie. Make sure your filling is really bubbling (see video below) before you pull it from the oven to insure all the juices gel and don’t leave a soupy mess when the pie is cut. If the crust edge is over-browning then cover it with a pie shield or foil.

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Find a pie dough recipe here. It’s my favorite go to recipe and enough for a double crust, so wrap and freeze half of it for another time or just bake two pies.

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best baking buddy ever

Fresh Picked Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie dough for a single crust pie

2 tablespoons gingersnap crumbs

Crisp Topping

½ cup all purpose flour

¼  cup brown sugar

¼ cup old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into cubes

Filling

4 cups of fresh picked strawberries, slice large ones in half

2 cups sliced (1/2-inch thick) fresh picked rhubarb

2 tablespons heavy cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon vanilla

½ cup sugar

¼ cup all purpose flour

Heat oven to 400F. Line 9-inch pie plate with dough. Trim and flute edge.  (Roll out dough scraps and cut shapes for decoration. Sprinkle shapes with sugar, if desired.)

Sprinkle cookie crumbs over bottom of pie shell and chill while preparing topping and filling. For topping: combine all ingredients in a bowl working the butter into the dry ingredients until clumps form. Chill it. For Filling: Place berries and rhubarb in a large bowl. Drizzle with heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla; gently toss to coat. Add sugar and flour; toss again. Spoon into pie shell. Sprinkle crisp mixture over the top. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until pie is bubbling and crust and topping are golden brown. Let cool to room temperature or serve just slightly warm.