A vegetable that acts like a fruit: Best rhubarb has slim stalks and a bright, cherry-red color

Posted: Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rhubarb's long stalks, also called ribs, are inedible raw and range in color from bright cherry red to light pink. It is best to purchase rhubarb that is deep red in color (indicative that it's less tart than lighter-hued rhubarb) and with thin stalks (signifying its tender age).

Although rhubarb is really a vegetable, we use it in recipes like a fruit for sauces, jams, pies and many other sweet dishes. New cookbooks such as Trina Hahnemann's "The Scandinavian Cookbook," and "Memorable Recipes to Share with Family and Friends," by Rene Behnke with Cynthia Mims, published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, offer delicious recipes using rhubarb. Purchase rhubarb with thin stalks, less than 1 1/2-inches wide, a sign of its being young and tender, and be sure to remove rhubarb's leaves and roots -- they are toxic. Trim fibrous stalks with a vegetable peeler.

Rhubard with these qualities have been turning up at the market, so I appreciated that two recent cookbooks released by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Tina Hahnemann's "The Scandinavian Cookbook," and "Memorable Recipes to Share with Family and Friends," by Rene Behnke with Cynthia Nims, both offer recipes for rhubarb.

Behnke's recipe for Rhubarb and Strawberry Crisp keeps company with 139 other treasured recipes and 125 splendid photographs, my favorite being the picture of Behnke, as a child, stirring food while sitting atop the family's kitchen counter.

The grown up Behnke went on to purchase the first Sur La Table culinary store in Seattle, and remains the store's president emeritus.

Hahnemann, Denmark's leading TV chef and food writer, brings us an equally impressive cookbook, abounding with stunning images and native Scandinavian recipes for foods like Smrrebrd (open-faced sandwiches with flounder, shrimp, and basil dressing) and Kransekage (almond cakes), both of which can be made with readily available ingredients.

While the recipes in these books will inspire some folks off their seats and into the kitchen, others will remain spellbound within the books' hundreds of stunning photographs.

Summer's here and so are many other fine new cookbooks, just ripe for the picking.

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