Strawberries & Rhubarb, Oh My

We at Gigi HV believe strongly in using what is fresh and in season which at the moment includes strawberries. While our strawberry balsamic BBQ sauce may seemed unorthodox but delicious (stay tuned for that recipe tomorrow!), using strawberries for dessert seems like a natural.

Also in season is fresh rhubarb which starts showing up in April and May at the Rhinebeck farmer’s market. It’s usually sold as a bunch weighing about two pounds, but I’ve seen it also sold loose, and you just pick out the freshest stalks.

Some people string rhubarb, running a knife the outside length of the stalk to remove the stringy fibers, which are similar to those found in celery. That might be a good idea with very mature stalks, but generally I don’t bother when using the young, slim, tender spring ones.

These two make a classic and elegant pairing with pound cake.

Pound Cake with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote 

The term “pound” cake is derived from the fact that the traditional American version included one pound each of flour,eggs,butter,and sugar. While I wouldn’t call this recipe “light,” it is enlightened. I love a simple cake with juicy sweet-tart compote. Of course, you could always use store-bought pound cake (but I think homeade always tasted better!) Gigi pastry chef Louisa Demmitt always raids our retail cases at Gigi Market to prepare her rustic and sophisticated desserts.

Makes 12 servings

Pound cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter,softened
1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
3 egg yolks plus3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1⅓ cups cake flour,sifted

Strawberry rhubarb compote

3/4 cup sugar
⅓ cup honey
¼ cup cornstarch
2 ½ pounds rhubarb,washed,dried and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 cup quartered strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a standard-size loaf pan.

In a stand-alone mixer,cream together butter and sugar at medium speed. Add the eggs yolks and whole eggs,one at a time,scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the vanilla,salt,and 1 teaspoon water. Remove the mixing bowl from the stand and fold in the cake flour gradually by hand,a third at a time,until it is incorporated. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes,until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Tip the cake out of the pan and finish cooling on a rack.

Place a medium metal bowl in the oven until hot. Carefully remove the bowl from oven and add the cornstarch,sugar,and honey. Mix together and add the rhubarb. Coat the rhubarb with the cornstarch/sugar mixture and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The rhubarb will release its juices and the cornstarch will help thicken them prior to cooking.

Pour the rhubarb mixture into a saucepan with all the accumulated liquid. Cook over low heat,stirring constantly,until the rhubarb is fork tender but not overcooked,10 to 15 minutes. Pour the compote into a heat-proof bowl and set it aside to cool at room temperature. Stir in the strawberries now.

Serving suggestions: Slice the cake and top with the compote. A little whipped cream is also a nice addition. 

Variations:

Use the compote as a pie or tart filling – see Rustic Tart (page 000). Simply pour the compote into an unbaked pie crust and bake at 425˚F for 30 minutes.

Enjoy the compote on its own with vanilla gelato or frozen yogurt.

Leftovers: In a cake container, the pound cake will hold for 2 days. Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote is good, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

Nutrition: Rhubarb is a great source of lutein, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Strawberries are rich in vitamin C and anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants.

 Economy: $

Note: This recipe can be found in the Gigi Good Food Cookbook, Hudson Valley Mediterranean.