Some tasty rhubarb for Father's Day!

Father’s day comes every year and it gets a similar hype as Mother’s Day does but more traditionally focused on steaks and grilling as recipe and gift ideas. Don’t get me wrong I love steak and adore grilling but I thought I would step out of that traditional vibe and offer up something else. An experiment if you will. 
I have been lucky enough to have not one variety but two varieties of rhubarb in my backyard. One we call strawberry rhubarb and the other rhubarb rhubarb, only for lack of the knowledge of the specific varieties. One we inherited when we moved in and another we transplanted from our old house, which was cut from a plant at my Father in Law’s in London which came from a cutting I believe from his Father in Law in Cayuga. So a generational rhubarb cutting that has been around for a long time. 
A couple of years ago, my Father in Law had brought over tons of rhubarb that he had cut from his own plant as mine wasn’t quite so fruitful yet and I was astonished as to what to do with it all. Well gladly I can say that since then I have enjoyed making and cooking and baking with rhubarb. 
My Father enjoys rhubarb as well, so I asked him what would you like for Father’s Day, his reply as he was shaking his head “nothing”. I replied quickly and said “I have to make something preferably with rhubarb so how about that any requests?” again another “nope” reply.
Okay so this is the best way to describe dads, usually open minded to whatever is presented to them. At least the Fathers in my life are and I am grateful for that. Both my Father and Father in Law are always willing to taste what I’ve made and give me their honest opinions and sometimes even ask for the recipe! 
Rhubarb is one of spring’s first crops that chefs and home cooks really enjoy using. It’s tart flavour is a great addition to pies and sauces and in combination with fruit like strawberries and apples. It’s stalks are crisp and range in colour from green to dark red, usually from the different varieties. Stalks also vary in thickness, but I cut back the longer stalks to use as I get more rhubarb to use that way. 
The leaves are not edible and can get very large, so be sure to cut those off of the stalks as well before washing well and using them. In my own backyard I have one plant that has fairly green stalks and the other deep ruby red. With a simple chop and addition of some sugar and water I enjoy stewed rhubarb with desserts or over ice cream. The simple combination I use is about 10 oz (300 g) of rhubarb which is about 2 cups (500 mL) chopped, combined with 1/3 cup (75 mL) of granulated sugar and a couple tablespoons (30 mL) of water in a pot and over medium heat bring it to a gently simmer to dissolve sugar then cover and let stand until rhubarb is soft but still in pieces. A simple addition to your dessert line up.
You can also take this mixture and instead of using water add a touch of red or white wine and use it to serve with a grilled meat of choice instead with a slight tangy sweetness to it, it is sure to please.
I decided to create a cake with rhubarb but something a bit different in texture and flavour with the addition of cornmeal and almonds. Turns out it is a lovely combination, almost pudding like with the jewel tones of rhubarb on top. This will make a lovely dessert to share with your Father on the weekend or perhaps even make it together and chat about other great uses for rhubarb or what you might like to experiment with next time you cook together. As most dads are willing to take on that challenge I think you both will come up with something very creative and surely delicious! Happy Father’s Day!

Upside Down Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake
Enjoy this cake warm out of the oven simply or make up to 1 day ahead. The slightly dense and unique texture of the cornmeal has a slight crunch in each bite and decadently rich like enjoying almond paste in it as well.

12 oz (360 g) rhubarb, chopped to make about 2 1/2 cups (625 mL)
1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) sliced almonds

Cornmeal Cake:
1/2 cup (125 mL) canola oil
3/4 cup (175 mL) packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) pure almond extract
1 cup (250 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) fine cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
Whipped cream (optional)

Grease and parchment paper line bottom of a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan; set aside.

In a bowl, stir together rhubarb, sugar and almonds. Spread evenly into pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, eggs and almond extract. Pour over flour mixture and stir to combine. 

Pour over top of rhubarb and spread evenly to coat. Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven for about 40 minutes or until golden and cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool slightly before turning out onto cake platter. Remove parchment and serve with a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Tip: If possible use a light coloured cake pan to ensure an even bake. Dark coloured pans can cook the cake quickly and unevenly. 


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