I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here in my neighborhood, it has been the most glorious spring. After the dreary cold days of last spring, it feels like the heavens have finally decided we deserve a month of picture perfect warm sunny (with just a few showers once a week) days that have made even just a short walk down the street to the market or post office magical. The sidewalks of Philadelphia are lined with the blooms of cherries, apples, dogwoods, red buds, tulips, bleeding hearts, brunnera, hellebores, lilacs, lilies of the valley, and much more. On my deck, the blueberry bush and the alpine strawberries have been blooming their little hearts out, getting ready to give us a fine feast in the months to come. I’m nearly giddy with the return of fresh fodder at the dinner table.
Activity in the garden has been at a near manic pace (my continued excuse for neglecting you fine folks; forgive me?) and the young tender leaves of arugula, beets, kale, lettuces, carrots, cilantro, and peas are all making steady strides towards the sun’s rays. I have also been busy preparing the beds for and planting the seedlings of myriad cut flowers for my business, including lisianthus, dianthus, calendula, queen anne’s lace, english daisies, flowering oregano, fragrant stock, poppies, larkspur, nigella, sunflowers, sweet peas and more. Expect to see plenty of flowers here on SFTF this summer as they are my new muse when it comes to thinking up recipes. Colors seem to inspire me just as much as flavors these days.
For instance, the cheery pink of delicate and exotic bleeding hearts reminded me instantly of rhubarb and prompted me to conjure up a recipe for something equally beautiful, delicate, and just a tad exotic. The rhubarb is from the three seedlings I started myself in the summer of 2008. They have grown into near monsters, offering up more crispy pink stalks than I could ever know what to do with, even though all the nay-sayers told me that growing rhubarb from seed was silly since it would take years to get a plant that produced much.
This recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Napoleon with Rhubarb Coulis is ridiculously easy, though it might look complicated at first glance. Just buy the frozen puff pastry and throw it in the oven. Then chop up a bunch of rhubarb and slice a few strawberries. Put two saucepans on the stove and beat the heck out of the whipped cream and waa-laa! You’re done! Then sit back and soak up the verbal declarations of your marvelous culinary skills as your dinner guests ooh and ahh.
The strawberries, by the way, aren’t quite in season here in Philadelphia yet. I fortunately had just a few of my petite alpine strawberries from last season still in the freezer that were perfect for this dish. If you don’t have frozen local berries, but you did put up some chunky strawberry jam last season, you could easily stir in a couple spoonfuls to the filling and would be just as well off. Or, if you have no strawberries, this dish would be just as delicious with just rhubarb if you added another teaspoon of sugar to the filling to offset the tartness of the rhubarb flying solo.
What local yumminess are you eating
now that warm weather is back in town?
Rhubarb Strawberry Napoleons with Rhubarb Coulis
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 T. water
2 c diced rhubarb
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
1 vanilla bean, scraped
dash of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. diced rhubarb
2 T. sugar
1 T. water
1/2 c. sliced strawberries
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 c. sugar or Splenda
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Cut the puff pastry along the seams where it was folded and then cut each of these pieces into two so that you have a total of six rectangles of pastry. Whisk the egg and water together. Lay the pastry on the baking sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and puffed up. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
For the coulis, combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is nearly dissolved and the mixture is very watery. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Place the rhubarb mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth. Set aside.
In another small saucepan, make the filling by combining the rhubarb, sugar and water. Stir and cook over medium heat just until the rhubarb become soft, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the strawberries. Let cool.
Whip the heavy whipping cream with an electric mixer, beating just until it begins thickening up before adding the sweetener. Continue beating until the cream forms stiff peaks.
Using a serrated knife, cut the pastry rectangles in half like a roll so that you have 12 “slices”. Assemble the napoleons by placing a slice of pastry on a serving plate, spread with a generous spoonful of whipped cream, then a spoonful of fruit filling and a drizzle of coulis, and top with another slice of pastry. Repeat so that there are two layers of filling and three slices of pastry for each napoleon. Dust top with confectioners sugar and drizzle extra coulis around the edge of the plate. Assemble all four napoleons and serve immediately. The coulis, filling and pastry can all be prepared a day ahead and then assembled when ready to serve. The whipped cream is best made right before serving but it can be made the night before.