Pink celery.

Prior to going to the farmers’ market every weekend, I knew rhubarb as pink celery. Embarrassing, right? After looking at it from afar for over a year, I bought a couple pink stalks. But I didn’t know what to do with them. I thought about chopping a piece off to taste it so I’d have a better sense of how to prepare it. I hear it’s a good thing I didn’t. Word on the street: rhubarb is poisonous uncooked, or at least its leaves are. Crisis averted. So I flipped through a bunch of recipes online and landed on a rhubarb galette. It called for lemon juice. From half a lemon. So I squeezed away just as the recipe directed. Popped it in the oven. So far so good. Served it up a la mode. Took a bite, and, here’s where it goes bad, my eye muscles started to freak out. Tears followed. And taste buds were seared. I looked like the bitter beer face guy.

Pink celery.

It’s tart. I’ve learned my lesson—looks can be deceiving. Use orange juice instead of lemon juice. And add strawberries to help to cool the tartness. With that, I give you: nutty strawberry rhubarb bread.

Nutty Strawberry Rhubarb Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. orange oil
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. chopped strawberries
1 1/4 c. chopped rhubarb (about 3 stalks)
1/2 c. canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. (I always skip this step and it comes out clean.)
2. In a medium sauce pan, cook strawberries and rhubarb over medium heat until they begin to breakdown, about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat, mash, and set aside. Allow to come to room temperature (or pop them in the freezer for 5 min.).
3. Meanwhile, using a food processor, finely chop walnuts. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the walnuts, flours, sugar, soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the orange oil, eggs, strawberry rhubarb mixture, and canola oil. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, whisking until well-blended.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. (I add a sheet of foil in the last 15 minutes to keep from burning.) Cool the bread in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it, transferring to a rack to cool completely, 1 hour or longer. For best flavor and easiest slicing, wrap the bread while slightly warm and let it sit overnight. (Great tip! I always let bread sit overnight to allow the flavors to mature. It’s worth the wait.)

How do you like your rhubarb? Tart or tamed?

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