"The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel
like a mother about her baby - how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion
of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is
nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling,
as gathering the vegetables one has grown."
- Alice B. Toklas
I feel lucky to have a friend who provides me with fresh rhubarb. He grows it because it's one of the few vegetables that comes back every year. He only grows things that are easy. He includes rhubarb as one of them. (I won't tell him I actually have some growing, but my green thumb isn't as good as his, apparently, because mine doesn't grow as well.)
Rhubarb is one of those things I think of when I think of a homegrown vegetable. My husband told me his parents grew it and he would eat it straight up, like eating a stalk of celery. I asked, just to be clear, "you ate it plain? Without dipping it in sugar, even?" "Yup. Straight up." Was his reply. I asked him to take a bite again, today to see if he could still eat it without puckering unbearably. He bit into that rhubarb, and sure enough, he looked at me and said, "what? It's good." He likes tart things. I've never understood that man's palette.
I've always liked to keep a vegetable garden. My first one started when I was living with my father in my late teens. One day I had the idea I wanted to grow some vegetables in his back yard. I grew zucchini, and it worked! I made zucchini. It was quite a thrill. I also planted cantaloupe seeds. My father and I both like the fruit, so I thought it would be a good idea. Well, I was a teenager, remember, so I didn't actually learn how to garden. I just planted some seeds and hoped for the best. Every day I would come home and look at my cantaloupe plant. My dad and I would stare at it, and one of us would say, "no fruit yet?" "No", said the other. This went on for days, perhaps weeks. Till one day I came home and looked at that melon plant, and lo and behold, there was a full size cantaloupe! For a split second I thought it had grown overnight. But alas, my father had purchased a cantaloupe at the store and placed it there near the vine. My dad has such an inventive sense of humor. I'll never forget that day. I secretly giggle when I think of it.
Speaking of my father, he's a wonderful gardener himself. Only he grows flowers. He's a photographer, (a really great one), he takes pictures of them. You can see his Flickr page here. Many of his works adorn my walls.
I've been making rhubarb bread quite a bit lately to get it right. This recipe is the sweet result of all the trial and error. I'm serious about my quick breads. I'm known for my Famous Banana Bread, for goodness sake. A quick bread from my kitchen needs to be really moist with lots of flavor. This bread is loaded with flavors of brown sugar, walnuts and rhubarb of course. The sweet, nutty topping is my favorite part.
Rhubarb Nut Bread
makes 2 loaves
1 1/2 cups (265 g.) brown sugar, packed
1 cup (8 oz, 237 ml.) neutral oil (I used light olive oil, but you could use vegetable oil)
1 cup (8 oz.or 227 g.) sour cream or yogurt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
2 1/2 cups (375 g.) flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups (340 g. or about 12 oz.) diced rhubarb- small pieces if you don't want it very tart, chop it in slightly larger pieces if you want the rhubarb to be more prominent
1/2 cup (70 g.) chopped walnuts
Ingredients for topping
1/2 cup (55 g.) brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup (70 g.) walnuts- half of them chopped, half of them left in bigger pieces (divided)
3 Tablespoons soft butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. Grease 2- 8x4 inch loaf pans, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, blend together the brown sugar, oil, and eggs. Add the sour cream, (or yogurt) and the vanilla, and mix well again. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and blend well until all is incorporated. Add the rhubarb and nuts and mix well.
Pour batter into the greased pans.
Make the topping. In a medium bowl with a fork, blend the soft butter, brown sugar and the chopped nuts until crumbs form. Divide the mixture between the two loaves. Then sprinkle the larger walnut pieces over the topping.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.