A version of this post was originally sent to our email subscribers on May 8th. To sign up for our weekly email sign up in the column to the left or click here.
If you're trying to eat as much from a garden or farm nearby (good for you!), and you live in a place where the trees have only recently gotten green (I'm not going to bore you with horticultural zones), the truth is that in early May, you still don't have a ton of choice. There are some gems, though, and as we delve deep into Garden Month at The Kitchn, I'm reminded of a few meals I've made from gardens in the past.
These two dishes were made around this time last year when the first precious peas were getting plump enough to pick and the rhubarb was standing tall and proud. We rolled out fresh pasta with friends and there were too many of us for the small amount of peas I had. But what was lost in quantity was made up for by the sheer fact of eating the just-picked peas, and their sweetness, and the smell of the chives still on our fingers.
We talked about chives on Tuesday: they are gloriously easy to grow and they keep coming back every year.
The dish was simple: peas were shells and boiled for less than a minute, then plunged into ice water and drained. We fried the chive blossoms in a nice portion of butter with a touch of nutmeg added at the end. Then the pasta and peas were tossed in this buttery ambrosia. Generous shavings of Parmesan and a little coarse salt serve this dish well.
Dessert, as you can see, wasn't pretty. I was working with a variety of rhubarb called Victoria that never gets that trademark rhubarb red like the fat crimson stalks you see in the grocery store. When green rhubarb cooks down to a compote, what was once bright spring green is now a cooked earthy brown-green. Drizzle it still hot over ice cream and you have a very tasty, fairly ugly situation. Serve it in candlelight, believe me, no one will care.
The point is, spring is here and many of us like to celebrate it, like most seasons, with the way we eat. It may start slow, but the tastes, however sparse, are sweet.
However many stalks of fresh rhubarb you can find, chopped (within reason, say up to 6 cups)
1/8-1/6 that amount in sugar (4 cups rhubarb? Start with 1/2 cup sugar, knowing you might need more)
That same amount in water (4 cups rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water)
Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit breaks apart. Depending on the quantity, it could be 10-20 minutes. Take care not to burn the mixture. Test for sweetness (careful, it's hot) and add more sugar if the compote is unbearably tart. It shouldn't be too sweet - remember, it's rhubarb. Serve it warm over ice cream. Or cool it down and stir it into ice cream. It's also great cooled and stirred into yogurt the next morning.
Related: Last week's posted email, From the Email: Six Pantry Essentials
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)