Archive for the ‘At the market’ Category

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote recipe)

27 June 2011

I could have spoken about rhubarb two months ago, when it first appeared at the market as the very welcome distraction from the last winter apples and pears; rhubarb makes those last few weeks before the first berries of summer bearable.

But it’s already the first week of summer, berries abound everywhere, and while I’ve eaten pounds of strawberries — plain, in tartes, or churned into ice cream — as well as raspberries and blueberries even, I am still craving — and eating — rhubarb.

Rhubarb is one of those vegetable that I cannot resist buying so it often ends up as compote (recipe below) because I’ve usually purchased it without a plan and compote only takes a few minutes to prepare. However the other day I felt an irresistible urge to make rhubarb ice cream. It was good beyond all expectations, and barely more work than a simple compote.

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, though in our part of the world it is often used as a fruit, in crumbles and tarts. Wild rhubarb originated in Asia and its root has been used medicinally in China, Asia, and eventually Europe for thousands of years. But it was not until the nineteenth century that the stalks of rheum rhabarbarum were cultivated and used as a food, particularly in England and the United States, where rhubarb became known as “pie-plant.”

Rhubarb can be any shade of red or green, and while the red variety looks pretty, apparently there is no significant difference in taste. The stalks should be neither too big nor too small, always firm and crisp, not soft and flabby. Rhubarb is available from mid-spring through the summer. It thrives in cooler climates where the soil freezes in winter, which is another reason to love it — a delicious vegetable/fruit that grows best in my part of the world!

Rhubarb compote recipe

The quantities are an indication. The weight ratio of 1 part sugar for 4 parts rhubarb makes a compote that is not too sweet with a clear tart rhubarb taste. It can be adapted as desired. Serve with yogurt or crème fraîche, or with busy-day cupcakes.

3 1/2 cups (400 g) rhubarb cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar


Cut off the ends of the rhubarb stalks as well as any parts that are bruised or blemished. Wash the stalks before cutting them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. (Now is a good time to measure the amount of rhubarb to calculate the amount of sugar needed.)

Place the cut rhubarb into a medium saucepan. Add 3 tablespoons of water, then the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until all the pieces of rhubarb have become soft, about 12 to 15 minutes.

That’s it.


Related posts

Rhubarb ice cream

At the market | Quinces

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root [Remoulade salad]

At the market | Celeriac aka celery root (recipe: Céleri rémoulade, French celeriac salad)

19 November 2010

Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables. It’s at the market in the fall and I get very excited by the prospect of eating it. I usually make a purée together with potatoes and a bright green mix of fresh parsley and olive oil; This “green celeriac mash” is part of my traditional Thanksgiving menu, and, if all goes well, I will post the recipe in a few days. In the meantime, below is another great recipe that’s perfect for the freshest market-bought celeriac: Céleri rémoulade, a typical French celeriac salad.

But here first is some information about this excellent vegetable which seems to be less well known in the United States.

Celeriac, also known as celery root, is different from celery, though they are related. They evolved from the same wild plant, apium graveolens, which is common in Europe and temperate parts of Asia. Wild celery has tough stalks and a very strong flavor, and historically the stalks were used solely for medicinal purposes and as a condiment, though the small root came to be considered a delicacy in Europe and the Arab world. In the early seventeenth century, a milder, edible variety of stalk celery was cultivated, and botanists also began developing a plant with a larger root – celeriac.

It’s important to pick out celeriac carefully, because the interior can be pithy and hollow, which makes for a bad surprise and can be very frustrating. (That’s why it’s a good idea to always buy a little more celeriac than one think one needs, just in case; that, and because a good half inch of the vegetable comes off when it is peeled.) So celeriac should feel heavy; if the stalks are attached they should not be wilted; and the root should be very fragrant.

(Photo update from January 2021)

Céleri rémoulade (Celeriac salad)

NOTE: Predictably, there are as many versions of this recipe as there are cookbooks. The variations in the dressing range from a mustard mayonnaise to a mustard cream sauce with no oil at all. I have tried the different versions and I must admit that, to my surprise, the recipes that mix mayonnaise and cream are the best. (I was certainly very skeptical at first, despite the fact that these versions appear in some of my most trusted references – Alice Waters and Thomas Keller). The recipe below follows the proportions prescribed in Chez Panisse Vegetables.

2 small heads very fresh celeriac

Juice of 1 lemon

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp strong Dijon mustard

1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

2 Tbsp heavy cream

Parsley (optional)


To prepare the dressing, mix the lemon juice with the salt and pepper, then stir in the mustard, mayonnaise, and finally the cream.

Peel the celeriac by removing a generous amount of the tough, knobby outer layer. Finely grate the root and immediately toss with a few tablespoons of dressing at a time, making sure not to overdress or the salad will become soggy. **Celeriac oxidizes quickly so it really must be dressed immediately.** Taste and correct the seasoning for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Most recipes suggest to cover and refrigerate the salad for anywhere from 15 minutes to half a day. I also like to eat it immediately, when the celeriac is still crunchy.

Roughly chop the parsley and sprinkle it over salad just before serving.

(Photo update from January 2021)


Related post

Mashed celeriac

At the market | Quinces

14 October 2010

Quinces! Quinces arrived at the market yesterday so, inevitably, I bought a large bag. (As may be apparent from this blog’s name, I have a special fondness for the fruit.) Quinces are harvested in early fall and, unlike apples and pears to which they are related, can only be stored until December, so it’s a fairly small window of opportunity.

I am still undecided about what to make with these quinces. Last year I tackled quince jelly and fortuitously wound up producing kilos of quince paste with the leftover purée. I am tempted by apple and quince crumble or lamb and quince tagine. Whatever happens with the quince, I will record my endeavors here. In the meantime, the smell of the fruit sitting on my dining table is intoxicating and I realize that I don’t know much about the origins of quince, so I decided to do a little cursory research.

Quinces (cydonia oblonga) originated in the Caucasus and have been grown around the eastern Mediterranean for thousands of years. Cultivation spread before that of the apple, and many historical apples were actually most probably quinces. Apparently, for example, the apple by which Paris chose Aphrodite in the dispute that lead to the Trojan war was really a quince.

Quinces grow in temperate and subtropical climates and are important in the cooking of their native region the Caucasus, as well as Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and Eastern Europe. Quinces were brought to America by early settlers and now grow throughout the continent, but their popularity in the United States has declined over time.

Quinces keep for one to two weeks uncovered at (cool) room temperature – I should have bought more. Right now I am thinking quince dinner on Saturday, and hope there will be more quinces at the market next week for jelly and fruit paste.


Related posts:

Quince and apple tarte

Quince jelly

Quince paste

Figs with mascarpone

4 September 2010

Fresh figs are quintessentially seasonal. They are an inevitable component of any self-respecting late-summer meal. So, with 2 guests invited for dinner but no clear plan in mind, I bought figs the other day. I also purchased mozarella di bufala in the event that the figs would become an appetizer (fig, mozarella, and basil salad – a perfect River Cafe Cookbook Green recipe), as well as mascarpone, for a classic dessert of roasted figs with mascarpone. In the end I made a different appetizer, opting for cooked figs for dessert. But these figs were so perfectly ripe and delicate, and my oven so serendipitously broken, that I had to recalibrate. The result was really quite good.


Dessert for 4

12 figs

12 tsp mascarpone

Mild-tasting honey



Remove stub from figs and score a cross into the top of the figs so they open like a flower. Place 3 figs each onto individual plates or shallow bowls.

Heat equal amounts honey and sherry (2 or 3 Tbsp each) in a very small saucepan. Let reduce for about 3-4 minutes.

Pour a little hot syrup in and over the figs in each bowl. Place a neat teaspoon of mascarpone inside each fig. Drizzle a few drops of sherry over the dessert. Serve.

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