It might be the Kentucky Derby just around the corner or the fact that rhubarb was next to mint in the market but this is what makes sense to me this week. I think it is what’s needed for this stormy weekend… particularly the bourbon.
Rhubarb is a bit of a forgotten fruit. It is rarely sighted at the grocery store these days as it requires a bit more love, that is to say, effort, to bring out its best. At the market, it is a bargain and after just a little tending, it becomes something almost exquisite. Citrusy sour without the bitterness, I think it is perfectly suited as a thirst quenching drink. Sipped slow, this Rhubarb Mint Julep is a very bright start to an otherwise dreary weekend.
After a few sips of a cocktail, we will contemplate the beauty of the horses and begin to place our bets amongst each other.
It’s time for a snack. Fresh vegetable bruschetta is an easy way to pull together a quick appetizer and make good work of market vegetables.
Crisp Spring green asparagus is paired with the mild warmth of spring garlic and a quick toss of chopped mint. It’s really a spring vegetable hash that when spooned onto toast and topped with mint, looks almost elegant and tastes distinctly springlike. I make extra to keep in the fridge to fill an omelette the next day for Sunday breakfast.
The rain will likely continue and so will our afternoon stretch into evening. It’s a good day for bourbon and a rainy day for horses but we take it all in good stride. It’s that kind of day.
- ½ baguette
- 6-7 sprigs of asparagus
- 4-5 medium to large cremini mushrooms
- 4 spring garlic stems (or 2-3 garlic cloves)
- ⅓ cup mint leaves
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees or the broiler to low (you can do high broil to make your toast but keep an eye on it constantly. The difference between nicely browned and burnt takes about 2 seconds....seriously. Go ahead and turn it down to low broil if you have that setting on your oven. I do this in batches using a toaster oven.
- Slice the baguette into thin ¼-inch slices and spread out onto a sheet pan.
- Prep the garlic: Remove the root end and about a half inch of the green tops of all the garlic stems. Remove the white bulb of one garlic stalk and set aside. Add its greens to the rest of the stems. Cut the remaining stems into small slices, then run the knife through the pile so that you have a small dice.
- Prep the asparagus: Remove the tough end, usually at least an inch off the bottom. Cut stalks into small slices, then run the knife through the pile to create a small dice.
- Prep the mushrooms: wipe any dirt off with a wet paper towel and cut off the stem. Set the mushrooms flat on the cutting board. Slice through the center like a hamburger roll, then holding it together, slice in about 3 slices, then three times the other direction until you have a small dice of mushrooms. Run your knife through one more time so that the pieces are similar in size to the asparagus.
- Prep the mint: Pull out the smallest leaves and set aside. Put 4-5 mint leaves on top of one another and roll together lengthwise like a cigar. Starting at the point, slice into thin slices to create a chiffonade. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
- Heat the butter in a large fry pan over medium heat until it melts. Add the asparagus and stir the asparagus for about 2-3 minutes until it starts to turn bright green. Push the asparagus to the edges of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to create a space in the center. Add the mushrooms and stir for a few minutes until covered in the butter, then stir together with the asparagus. Add the garlic.
- Continue to gently sauté for about 7-10 minutes until the asparagus is softened and the mushrooms are starting to brown. Remove from heat and add the mint. Stir to combine until mint begins to wilt.
- Take your remaining garlic bulb, slice in half lengthwise. Rub the open side of the garlic against the bread slices. Drizzle or brush olive oil over each toast and broil or toast in an oven just until light brown.
- Remove from oven.
- Scoop a spoonful of the mushroom asparagus mixture onto each toast. Garnish a few of your bruschetta toasts with any small mint leaves you had set aside.
- 1 lb rhubarb stalks
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup filtered water
- 16 mint leaves
- 4 oz. bourbon (optional)
- 1 11-oz bottle sparkling water
- Remove the ends of the rhubarb and cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Place rhubarb pieces into a medium saucepan, sprinkle with the sugar and pour in the water.
- Bring to a slow simmer over medium heat, occasionally scraping down the sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate any stray grains of sugar and assist its dissolve into the water.
- Simmer gently until the rhubarb softens and completely breaks apart.
- Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, set a fine mesh strainer over a large glass measuring cup or bowl.
- In batches, pour about half of the rhubarb mixture through the strainer and using your spatula, press the rhubarb pulp against the strainer to press out all liquid into the bowl. Remove pulp into a glass jar with a lid and repeat with the remaining rhubarb mixture.
- You now have a beautiful glass full of rhubarb syrup and a jar full of rhubarb preserves that will last a least a week in the fridge. Slather the rhubarb preserves over a slice of buttered toast or spoon over ice cream or yogurt.
- In the bottom glass or pitcher, muddle the mint leaves with a muddler or end of a wooden spoon to bruise the mint, releasing its mintiness.
- Add a scoop of ice, 3 Tablespoons of rhubarb syrup per glass (or ¾ cup for the pitcher) or more and the bourbon (1 oz per glass...or more if desired!). Stir to combine.
- Serve in a tall glass with a sprig of mint and a straw.