Can you feel it? I can. The first twinges of Spring have set into my being and I am now excited about those first few food items that come along with this season; rhubarb, fiddleheads and lovage. Yes, a crazy combination of sorts, but hey, I am a crazy kinda gal.
Let's start with lovage. When I was growing up in Quebec, my parents had this big, crazy bush of lovage that I had to walk by everyday. Everyday that I walked by that bush I complained that it stank and that the smell made me sick to my stomach; typical child behaviour. To me, lovage was the bane of my existence! It was only many years later, when I moved to Prince Edward Island to become Executive Chef of The Inn At Bay Fortune, that I had to face my fear.
Working in a kitchen where I changed the menu daily, and depended on the garden for ninety percent of my produce, I realized that lovage and I were going to have to fall in love with one another. I took it upon myself to learn about this magical herb, that I could only describe as "celery on crack".
Lovage grows year round in some parts of the world, and unlike most herbs, when you cook it, it does not lose it's flavour. So, out came lovage soups, oils, purees and salads. It works wonders in a chicken salad sandwich, and pairs perfectly with pears! I am now proud to admit that the first thing I planted when we bought our house, was a tiny lovage plant that has now turned into a beautiful, aromatic bush.
Fiddleheads, those green little creatures that look like a caterpillar. Full of Omega 3, 6, iron and fibre, these green guys pack a major punch. Only available for about 4-6 weeks out of the year, I hoard them and freeze, pickle and devour them until their short season is over. The thing about these ferny friends is that you must wash them several times and fully cook them to get rid of any harmful microbes. A trick? Soak them in cold water, rinsing several times and a quick blanch in salted boiling water. A little olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice is all these guys need.
Doug and I have lived in our little blue house on Lake Banook in Dartmouth for 6 years now, and it wasn't until last spring, while doing some major yard work, that I discovered a very random patch of rhubarb growing in our yard. How exciting, I thought. It reminded me of my childhood days, and how I would go over to Sheila's (she was our neighbor in Shawville), and secretly cut her rhubarb from the patch behind her garage, and hope that none of the neighbors saw me! I would stuff it under my shirt, and make a run for my yard and bolt through the side door completely out of breath. Of course, my rhubarb cutting never went unnoticed, as my mother would interrogate me on my "lucky" find, and would place a call to the McDowell residence to inform Sheila of my bad behaviour. To make it up to everyone, I would bake a rhubarb crisp, taken from a local Shawville Minor Hockey Cookbook, and eat it hot right out of the pan! Now that I have my own rhubarb patch, I can make this sweet and sour concoction anytime.
The Shawville Rhubarb Crisp
- 250ml (1 C) all purpose flour
- 250ml (1C) packed brown sugar
- 200ml (¾ C) oatmeal
- 125ml (½ C) melted butter
- 2 1/2 L (5 C) chopped fresh rhubarb
- 250ml (1C) white sugar
- 250ml (1C) cold water
- 30ml (2 Tbsp) cornstarch
- 5ml (1 Tsp) vanilla
In a bowl, mix the flour and brown sugar with the butter and oatmeal. Press ¾ of the mixture into the bottom of a 9" pan; cover with the rhubarb. In a saucepan, mix all the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Pour over the rhubarb and sprinkle the remaining topping on top. Bake in a 350F oven for 45-60 minutes until it is oozy, bubbly and brown!