Long leafy stalks of ruby-red rhubarb were propped in such an orderly pile at the market last week. They were just begging to go home and be magically transformed into sweet-tart sauce, dense-moist muffins, braised as a side-dish and tucked into a custard pie, oh my.
Rhubarb is a cool weather perennial vegetable. Yes, it’s technically a vegetable since it grows from rhizomes and does not contain seeds, but rhubarb dons a fruit disguise. Known for its puckery flavor, this veggie regularly shows up in a sweetened costume.
Shop for rhubarb that has bright pink or light green stems that are smooth, shiny and firm. Store the celery-like stems loosely wrapped in the refrigerator. When preparing rhubarb for cooking, wash well in cool water, remove the leaves as they are mildly toxic and trim off any blemished areas. Now you’re ready to chop and consume the homey, country “pie plant” as it is known in certain areas.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
(Adapted from an old Country Living recipe)
You will need:
- Pastry for double-crust pie
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 cups fresh rhubarb, ¼” slices
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons half and half, light cream or milk
What you do:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pastry and fit pastry into a 9” pie plate. Trim to ½ inch beyond edge of pie plate, fold under extra dough and flute edge. Do not prick pastry.
- In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add rhubarb and gently stir to coat.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs and stir in half and half. Pour over rhubarb; toss to mix. Transfer to the pastry lined pie plate.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out remaining dough into a 12” circle. Using 2” to 3” cookie cutters, cut into decorative shapes, arranging pastry cutouts on filling. Brush with additional milk and sugar.
- To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until golden. Cool pie on a wire rack. Makes 8 servings.
- Optional: Replace the dough cutouts with a crumb topping of ½ cup each flour, old-fashioned oatmeal, brown sugar to ¼ cup of butter.