My second CSA box arrived last week and, with it, came a bounty of rhubarb.
Well, actually maybe not a bounty, but 5 healthy pink stalks. There's this weird phenomenon with CSA produce where you both get a lot and not very much of one type of vegetable or fruit. Can you CSA endorsers relate? But that is the challenge, and the fun of taking part in a CSA -- or Community Supported Agriculture -- program. It's a fantastically delicious way to take part in your community and to eat seasonally and locally. It's essentially like buying stocks in a farm, and getting a portion of whatever the farm produces that year as payment. I pick up a box or produce every week from now until the end of the summer, a couple blocks from my apartment. It means there is a lot of fresh cooking going on in my kitchen, but also a bit of a constant "what's for dinner" challenge because you can't fully plan your meals ahead of time!
The rhubarb we received didn't come in sufficient numbers to make a pie or tart as I would have hoped, but I turned into the next best thing I could think of: rhubarb simple syrup! If you haven't made flavoured simple syrup before, this recipe is a great one to start with. Simple syrup -- a, yes simple! -- mixture of sugar and water is great to use in drinks and summer treats, like popsicles. Once the sugar has dissolved in water, it stays at an eternal syrupy stage making it perfect to add to lemonades, ice tea or cocktails of any kind.
This version is simply topped off with carbonated water, but would be delicious as an evening cocktail with a little vodka or other strong liqueur. Even if your rhubarb doesn't seem that pink when you cook it down, rest assured, the end result will take on a lovely pink hue once strained.
4 cups chopped rhubarb
3 1-inch pieces of peeled and sliced fresh ginger
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
In saucepan, bring rhubarb, ginger, water, sugar and vanilla to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved and rhubarb has broken down, about 20 minutes.
Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer pressing down with back of spoon to extract as much liquid as possible from the rhubarb. Discard ginger and rhubarb pieces in the cheesecloth. Cool rhubarb liquid.
Once cold, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of rhubarb syrup to a glass. Top with ice and carbonated water. And as as much syrup as you want to make the drink sweeter. Store syrup in the fridge in an airtight container. Enjoy!