F2F Wife Recipes


“I got rhubarb!”  That was my husband’s voice on the end of my phone calling in from one of his foraging trips to the Shenandoah Valley. We get a lot of our local produce and other goodies for the Farm to Family bus from small family, often Mennonite, farms there.

Immediately I began planning the rhubarb pie that I would make as soon as I got my hands on it. When most folks think of rhubarb, they think of pie, and in fact, pie plant is its common name. Rhubarb’s debut is heralded with great excitement, as it is a harbinger of spring and the bounty that follows. Along with the appearance of asparagus and strawberries, winter, and the endless reworking of those root vegetables, is finally over.
I eagerly posted that we had RHUBARB! on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and our shoppers, experienced rhubarb bakers, and the curious alike, grab it by the handfuls.
One of our customers pointed at the stalks and asked, “What’s that! I want some!” a common phrase heard in our market and farm bus. I explained it was rhubarb and proceeded to tell her how to make a pie and to tell her what I knew of it, passed down from my mom and other relatives.
Rhubarb is an old-fashioned plant, like peonies and sweet peas, that are the memory of long ago gardens planted by farm women. They are functional as well as beautiful, like those pioneer women who planted them, with strong, sturdy, blushing red and pink stalks, and graceful, full dark green leaves.
I drove my mom North recently, to our family homestead on the Quebec border for her summer visit (where it snowed immediately before and after our trip!) Along the way we saw rhubarb patches near old farm houses as we drove into the deeply rural area near home in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.
Mom and I had a lively discussion of rhubarb which began with remembrance of her mother’s Rhubarb Pie recipe, which is a lovely spring treat and “easy as pie” to make.
We discussed other family favorites as the miles flew by: rhubarb cake, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb cobbler, rhubarb sauce, the addition of strawberries to everything rhubarb (Mom likes her rhubarb unadulterated while I like a little strawberry here and there). Several miles were devoted to the exciting rhubarb ice cream that mom and dad made when I was a small child, taking my turn cranking the old ice cream maker.  It seemed like my arm would fall off, but oh how wonderful that rhubarb ice cream tasted!
As a child I used to love to pick rhubarb and bite into it, so sour my eyes would cross and mouth pucker. The leaves made lovely elf hats for me and my dolls, but I was always careful to avoid eating those leaves, as my mother told me over and over, they were DEADLY POISON!
Avoid those leaves, as they do contain oxalates — chop them off and put them in compost. Those poisons in rhubarb leaves break down harmlessly during the composting process. Or, make a rhubarb garden spray with those leaves to keep the aphids off your roses.
I’m an eager student of everything plant, and I like to research the uses of plants beyond their culinary delights. Rhubarb was one of those foods from my childhood my father would proclaim  “good for what ails you.”  I’m not sure where he got his education from, probably from his Grandma Settie, but in researching various things claimed to be good for me, I’ve found him to usually be right. 
Rhubarb is a plant originally found in China and was traditionally used for medicinal purposes and became a great commodity for traders and travelers from Asia to Europe. The type of rhubarb we are most familiar eating here in the US, English Rhubarb, was brought to the New World for its medicinal roots, and generally used as a purgative, to treat the stomach, colon and liver ailments. Recent research indicates it may be helpful as a way to lower cholesterol. The vegetable is considered to be a whole food medicine and a source of potassium, calcium and moderate amounts of vitamins A and C. It is also low in calories, if you don’t use sugar!
Rhubarb’s red color contains antioxidant ‘free radical scavenging’ activity. These phyto-chemical micronutrients protect the heart, lungs and blood vessels and have also been proven to lower the risk of developing some types of cancer.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that rhubarb became used for culinary purposes, but it seems its popularity rapidly spread. Today rhubarb is making its comeback in haute cuisine and even Jamie Oliver uses it in his Slow-roasted Duck with Sage, Ginger and Rhubarb Homemade Sauce’.  I wonder what Alice the Lunch Lady thinks of that recipe.  If you feel adventurous, an internet search will reveal recipes from rhubarb crumble with clotted cream to rhubarb champagne.
Choose rhubarb that is firm and brightly colored, and preferably stalks that have been pulled, not cut. Trim the leaves, the roots and any strings (like celery) and use as soon as possible. You can also store in a zip lock in the fridge, or cut it into pieces and freeze it to use later.Here’s my Grandma’s pie recipe – we think its still the best.

Grandma Mary Dodge’s Rhubarb Cream Pie

4 cups rhubarb, cut into ½” slices
1 ¼- 1/3 cups sugar (more or less, depending on how tart your rhubarb is)
1 egg
3 Tablespoons of flour (for gluten-free try cornstarch, potato or tapioca flour)
½ teaspoon lemon juice.
1. Mix the flour into the sugar.
2. Beat the egg and mix the sugar/flour into it.
3. Mix the rhubarb into the egg/sugar mixture and pour into bottom crust.
4. Sprinkle with lemon juice.
5. Put small pats of butter on top.
6. Put on top crust and cut pattern through the top crust.
7. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 425 for ten minutes.
Then bake at 375 until it bubbles through the cuts in the top.
Be sure to put a pan under it, because mine always boils over.
Use your favorite pie crust for a two crust pie.
If you prefer gluten free, like me, here are some suggestions so that you don’t have pie envy.
If you are GF pie crust challenged, try Gluten Free Pantry’s Perfect Pie Crust box mix.
If you like to bake and want a great GF crust recipe, try:
Gluten Free Pie Crust  from Elanaspantry’s Elana Amsterdam.  Her blog is fun and everything is delicious, kid-tested, nutritious and fairly easy to make.
For more info on rhubarb and recipes:
The Rhubarb Compendium

F2F Wife Recipes

Off The Bus – Meal in a Flash

As my husband Mark and I get closer to our project where we eat nothing but local food off the bus for a year, I am trying to make our meals as much as possible from food Off The Bus, or grown on our own land. Last summer I managed to can, dry or freeze and preserve a lot of vegetables to use this year until the harvest comes in. Inevitably my husband will look at the food, look at me and suspiciously ask, “Where’d you get THIS!” and I will smugly respond, “Off The Bus! Last year!”
We have a lot of things to still work out on this project. We are reading Barbara Kingsolver’s thought provoking book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Hopefully she will answer many of my questions. I know that once we start this, we’ll get very creative in foraging. If other people make it, and it is on the bus, then we can eat it.
For instance, there are a few staple things I really love to cook with, and they might be off the bus in the Mediterranean, but definitely not here in Virginia. Olive oil, lemons, olives, peppercorns…. I need to work out using them, or learning how to give them up. We have yet to find local vinegar, although I know fine local vinegars exist.
Last year my mother and my mother in-law each gave me books on making vinegars, and I could work with that delicious, unpasteurized apple cider we had for a few weeks last year. I can figure out how to make vinegar, and not applejack! We also have table grapes that grow along the fence in our garden. I might not give so many up to our neighbor for his winemaking this year. But vinegar takes time, and we have salads to make now from the lettuces, cress and kale and other greens on the bus. I need to plan for those salads later on in the season.
Another big problem to surmount is the fact that gluten makes me sick. Like many people these days, I’m allergic to wheat and its gluten. I’ve made my peace with gluten, mostly,  but substitutes I use for it, along with the lemons, are not likely to make it on the bus anytime soon unless Mark finds a great local source of almonds and coconuts.
We have delicious flour and baking mixes from Wade’s Mill, fancy family flour since 1862. We have the most glorious bread you can imagine – it tortures me when I go and pick it up from the bakers, fresh from the oven, warm in my hands. Foccacias, baguettes, sourdough rounds, honey wheat loaves shaped like babies, cinnamon loaves, and banana nut bread.  Not to mention the cookies and pies. The aromas fill my tiny car, teasing me to … just take a bite. But I resist, and tell people how good it feels in my hands and how wonderful it feels. I know good bread when I feel it. (-: Our search for a gluten free baker continues, because we have many shoppers on our bus, and members of our CSA who just feel better without wheat in their lives.
I am slowly learning that it takes planning to eat Off The Bus. Planning pays off when quick dinners are needed, which they often are in my house with a hard working hungry husband and a full time working wife. One of my favorite quick meals is the following:
Polyface Italian Sausage with Tomatoes and Rice
Handful of spring onions, with green tops
¼ cup multi-colored peppers (frozen, off the bus last year)
Olive oil – 2 tbs
Polyface Italian sausage links
Hot peppers, pinch or two (dried, off the bus last year)
Herbs – dried or fresh – I usually go out to the garden and grab a handful, or check out what I’ve dried from earlier. Oregano and thyme go well, but be adventurous.
Quart of tomatoes – (Hanovers, canned from last year. They are glorious.)
2 cups rice  – I like brown basmati (not off the bus, but I haven’t figured that part out yet)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Chop vegetables and sauté in olive oil. Cut sausage links into pieces and add to sautéing vegetables. Prepare rice – 2 cups rice to 4 cups water, with a little olive oil, and boil.
Crumble hot peppers into the pot, use according to taste, and how hot the peppers are (make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any kind of hot pepper.)  When sausage is done, add the tomatoes, and stir in herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with bread off the bus, and a salad. Today I used the 3 types of lettuce we currently have, Bibb, red leaf and romaine. I also used watercress, radishes, tomatoes (hydroponics from the Mennonite farmer), spring onions and left over roasted asparagus from the other night. Top with dressing of your choice.
Dessert was fresh strawberries…Off The Bus!