Saturday, May 21, 2016

Vanilla roasted rhubarb and ricotta cream with Greek honey on toasted bread

I didn’t grow up eating rhubarb, it’s one of those vegetables I discovered later in life, four years ago to be exact, here in the Netherlands. In Greece, rhubarb is almost impossible to find.

Now, it has become a spring tradition, to go out and get the first rhubarb of the season and make the best of it. It’s a new tradition that I cherish.

One day last week, I came home from the market with more rhubarb than I could handle but I wasn’t intimidated; I had plans. I was going to roast it, poach it, make into jam and pickle it. Yes, I had plans. Some of them came to fruition, others didn’t, but I managed to satiate my hunger for the ubiquitous vegetable and create some delicious dishes that we devoured giddily.

Three of the ways I cooked the spring rhubarb, I plan to share with you. This is the first one and it’s the simplest of the three; not that the rest are complicated, but this is perhaps the most straightforward and quick to make.

Rhubarb roasted in the oven with vanilla, a little bit of orange juice and sugar. Soft, plump and juicy, with that sweet and sour flavor that is so unique to rhubarb and that pairs well with all sorts of sweet things like ice cream, panna cotta, and even with some thick, strained yoghurt.

What I did with it, though, was use it on a dark and nutty toasted, crispy bread, and a creamy mixture of ricotta, Greek yoghurt and Greek wild thyme honey. The cream was rich and tangy with the mild sweetness of the honey, and the rhubarb on top with its pinkish-hued, vanilla-speckled juices made it so appetizing that we couldn’t stop eating it.

It’s a light dessert that screams spring and it’s even refreshing enough to be served for breakfast. Overall, the flavors are balanced and it’s not too sweet, just enough to call it dessert.

Vanilla roasted rhubarb and ricotta cream with Greek honey on toasted bread

Use a nutty, dark bread for this to bring more flavor to the toast. Bread with a faint bitterness to it like a dark rye or spelt with nuts would be great.

If you are in Greece, you can substitute the ricotta for the Greek anthotyro.

If you don’t know exactly what rhubarb is, see this pοst of mine with more info about it and a recipe for rhubarb and ginger-crumble ice cream.

Yield: 7-8 toasts


for the rhubarb
300 g rhubarb (without leaves)
1½ Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 Tbsp caster sugar

for the ricotta cream
200 g fresh ricotta
80 g Greek yoghurt, full-fat
2 tsp Greek wild thyme honey (or other runny honey)

7-8 bread slices

Special equipment: large baking tray, baking paper

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Lay a piece of baking paper in a large baking tray.

In a large bowl, add the orange juice and vanilla seeds, and mix well.

Rinse the rhubarb under cold, running water. Trim it on both ends and then cut it into about 7cm pieces. Add it to the bowl with the orange juice and vanilla, and mix well to coat every piece of rhubarb. Empty the rhubarb in the prepared baking tray in one layer and make sure to scrape every last vanilla seed from the bowl.

Sprinkle with the sugar on top and place on the middle rack of the preheated oven.
Bake the rhubarb for 10-11 minutes until just cooked and soft. Check it after 10 minutes by inserting the tip of a knife in a rhubarb piece and if it goes in easily then it’s ready.

You can toast the bread either in the oven or in a toaster. I prefer to toast it in the oven as it’s already on for the rhubarb. Place the bread slices on a baking tray and bake on the top rack of the oven for 5-7 minutes until really crispy. Allow them to cool before you assemble the toasts.

In the meantime, in a medium-sized bowl, add the ricotta, the yoghurt and the honey and mix well with a spoon until you have a homogeneous mixture.

To serve, lay the bread slices on a clean work surface, spread with the ricotta mixture and add the roasted rhubarb on top. Drizzle with some of the roasting juices and enjoy!


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