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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Rhubarb Pie Day

June 10th is National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day, a vegetable harvested in April and May in the northern hemisphere (the southern hemisphere harvest is in October and November, apple and pumpkin pie season for those on the other side of the Equator).

Yes, rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit. The giveaway might be that it looks like red celery stalks with cabbage-like leafy tops—although the two vegetables are actually not related. Some varieties of rhubarb have dark green stalks.

By the time it gets to market, the leaves of the rhubarb are usually cut off, and we only see the red stalks.

The leaves are removed because rhubarb leaves contain toxic substances that can poison humans—and cats, dogs, horses, rabbits. Don’t try to repurpose them; the only place for them is the compost heap.

Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine. As anyone knows who has cooked rhubarb, it needs copious amounts of sugar to offset its natural bitterness. Thus, it can be served as a vegetable, but its use as a sweet food didn’t come into play until sugar became widely available in the 17th century.

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Rhubarb—it’s pretty, and after you add lots of sugar, it’s tasty and sweet. Photo courtesy of OurOhio.com.
 
But since then, what a lovely choice for food enthusiasts. Stewed rhubarb is a delight, as is a rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pie or crumble, rhubarb ice cream, jams and marmalades. In generations past, rhubarb ketchup was a popular condiment.

As a savory, rhubarb can be made into salsa, sauces for chicken and pork, and join beets in a green salad. Check out these recipes.

The reason you don’t see more stewed rhubarb or pie is that it’s relatively laborious to work with the vegetable. It’s fibrous, so after you cook it, you need to process it through a food mill.

We learned the joys of cooking rhubarb from our Nana, who made copious amounts of rhubarb throughout rhubarb season; and we assure you, it’s worth it.
FRUIT OR VEGETABLE?

How can you tell the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?

Fruits carry their seeds on the inside—think apples, bananas, melons, pears, and plums. The only exception is the strawberry, which carries its seeds on the outside.

By the same token, the following “vegetables” are botanically fruits; we just think of them as vegetables because they are not sweet: avocados, eggplants, olives, squash, tomatoes and zucchini.

Avocados and olives are tree fruits, just like apples and oranges.
  

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Serving Spicy & Exotic Foods

Baji’s Papadums

Baji’s Mango Chutney Papadums make a special (and easy!) hors d’oeuvre with spicy chutneys or a quieter yogurt dip. Read our review.

  If you want to serve ethnic foods or spicy foods but are concerned that not all your guests will enjoy them, hedge your bets and serve them as hors d’oeuvres, along with other choices. The foodies can feast, and you don’t have to worry about other guests going hungry. See some of our favorites in the International Foods Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
 

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FOOD TIP OF THE DAY: Count Plates, Not Calories

Restricting your food intake to meet those weight loss goals? Treat yourself to beautiful dishes, cups, and glasses. What you eat will look more exciting and taste that much better. Even a cup of plain yogurt looks tempting in a beautiful red bowl (don’t forget a sprig of dill). It’s how they make the most meager victuals look wonderful at the poshest spas. Take a look at some of our favorite dishes. They also make entertaining more fun.   Glass PlatesGlass plates from European Sources Direct.
 

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Events: Chocolate & Beer Pairing (February 1, NYC & Perhaps In Your ‘Hood)

Knipschildt Chocolate
Which beer would you drink with this piece of chocolate (from Knipschildt Chocolatier)? Start pairing beer and chocolate to find out.
  For years, beer and chocolate lovers have traveled beyond the enjoyment of a good chocolate stout, combining malty and chocolaty craft beers with fine chocolates and chocolate desserts (see the recipe for a Chocolate Stout Float—chocolate stout and chocolate ice cream). In his book, The Brewmaster’s Table, Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery, describes a luncheon of sommeliers held at the Gramercy Tavern in New York City. The dessert trio included a chocolate-caramel tart, a molten chocolate cake and a malted milkshake. Oliver paired the dessert with two beers: Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout and a Belgian raspberry lambic. No sommeliers could come up with any wine that would pair as well as either of the beers. If you live in New York City, you’ll be able to attend a chocolate and beer pairing on February 1st as Garrett Oliver and chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt chocolatier (read our review of Knipschildt chocolates), pair chocolate and beer.
If you’re not in the neighborhood, check your local area food calendars: Beer and chocolate are hot stuff, and pairing events are happening all over the country. We’ll be attending the event and reporting back in time for you to plan your own beer and chocolate party for Valentine’s Day.If you can’t wait, where should you begin?
– Porters and Stouts. These dark beers are made from darkly-roasted barley or highly-toasted malts. With roasted, toasted and some coffee-like flavors, these beers match well with most chocolate desserts. Some are made with chocolate malts, chocolate nibs and/or actual chocolate.

– Belgian-Style Ales and German-Style Weizens. These beers have big, fruity-spicy beers aromas that complement chocolate. Weizens have subtle spicy flavors including banana and clove; Belgian-style ales have notes of apple, apricot and peach. As you can see in our chocolate flavors and aromas chart, similar tastes appear in fine chocolate, and actual fruits and spices are added to chocolate desserts, making for excellent pairings.

EVENT DETAILS: February 1 Chocolate & Beer Pairing At Whole Foods Market in NYC, with Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster and Fritz Knipschildt, chocolatier and owner of Café Chocopologie, in Norwalk, Connecticut. The event will be held at the Whole Foods Market at 95 East Houston Street (between Bowery and Chrystie Streets), 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. To register, phone 1.866.462.2838, from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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FOOD HOLIDAY: It’s National Blonde Brownie Day

It’s National Blonde Brownie Day—the blonde brownie is also known as the blondie. Celebrate with your favorite blondie, or send someone a gift of one of our favorites, from Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, a brownie company that makes a variety of blondies (they’re round, to boot!). The Cinnamon Blondie, shown in the photo, has a streusel topping—it’s a combination blondie and coffee cake. Can’t beat that! The Nutty Blondie, another favorite, combines sweet and salty with a topping of salty almonds, cashews and pecans. Strawberry Blonde is a peanut butter blondie with a strawberry swirl—PB&J in a blondie. And Tahiti, one of the best sellers, is a blondie topped with toasted coconut, cashews and dark chocolate chunks, with white chocolate morsels inside the blondie. All four are winners. Read our full review of Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, in the Cookies & Brownies Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Blondie
Sugardaddy’s Cinnamon Blondie—a blondie with a coffee cake topping.
 

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