Thursday, May 10, 2018

Quick update! Popsicle book winner!

Shannon, I can't stand that you've had the book in your cart for 2 years! You're the winner! Send me your address, please. Thank you all for chirping in and playing. You are rhubarb lovers and popsicle lovers and lovers period. And I love you so. xo

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Vanilla-Rhubarb Popsicles (plus a buried spontaneous give-away)

These are an almost opalescent green-pink. So beautiful and achingly delicious that it's worth the delayed gratification of needing to wait for them to freeze solid.
It is all I can do not to rush outside into April’s slushy mud to yank up the first stalk of rhubarb and crunch into its juicy pink-and-green silk and strings just to feel slapped awake by spring. But I am a hoarder of the early stalks. I wait until there are enough to make something with: a speckled cake or an oozing crumble or these popsicles or, really, anything that brings the rhubarb into my home and cramps my jaw with the tingly smell of it.

There is nothing like it—the way rhubarb smells. I was just stirring it at the stove, thinking about trying to describe to you, and words failed me. It’s so sharp and strange, like grapefruit-scented bubble bath but with bright green leaves in it, and also a fist that sproings out of the bottle to punch you in the mouth.

This was on our after-dinner walk two nights ago. Couldn't the seasons, I don't know, kind of divide up their treasures a little bit? I'd be so mad if I were one of the seasons that wasn't spring.
Spring is such a relief this year. I feel the way the cats seem to feel, watching the squirrels from the back door in a kind of ecstasy of hunger and excitement. 

Imaginary hunting is very tiring.
The bright mornings! The peepers peeping and the red fox yelling from the woods for a mate! The fresh-faced violets and dandelions! The flying ants in my bedroom! Okay, not so much the flying ants. I have always loved spring, only I used to also tell a story about how I love winter too—the coziness and candlelight and stews and sudden-onset nighttime so you can get early into your pajamas with a very small little glass of whiskey—only I’m not sure it’s true. I mean, I do love all those things, but winter! My god. Except I couldn’t bear to wish it away because our Ben? He is leaving us at the end of the season after this one. I am willing time to pass slowly. Take your time, time! No rush.

Where was I? Rhubarb popsicles! Because not only is it spring, it is actually suddenly the dog days of summer and everyone is broiling and cranky at the end of the school day. At least yesterday they were. So I popped these in the freezer this morning to be ready by the time those poor schoolkins return home. Like every popsicle recipe I post, this one is from the brilliant People’s Pops recipe book, and if you still haven’t bought it on my recommendation, after all these years, then you should buy it now. It is just so strangely brilliant: every popsicle is the perfect flavor and sweetness and texture. You’ll wonder what you were thinking, waiting for so long. (Hey, spontaneous give-away! Comment to enter and I’ll pick a winner next Thursday and send you the book! You’ll love it.)

The only two rhubarb recipes in the book are kind of *perfumed*--one with jasmine tea and the other with elderflower—which is not something my family can deal with. My family who gags and chokes and cries out that they’ve bitten into a seashell-molded bar of guest soap if someone serves them so much as a spoonful of lavender ice cream. (Okay, they don’t actually complain. But they don’t like it.) So I just went with vanilla, which is my favorite flavor pairing with rhubarb, even more than strawberries. I know! That might be the most shocking thing I’ve ever written here. I happened to have a semi-pent vanilla pod in a bottle of homemade extract, so I used that, but you can just use vanilla extract. 
Shoulda saved some for a vanilla whiskey sour, ammiright?
Or skip it. Or sub in some strawberries for the rhubarb, ya animal.

Vanilla-Rhubarb Popsicles
Makes 10 popsicles
Adapted from the brilliant People’s Pops cookbook.

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and sliced (this will be 3-5 stalks, depending on how robust they are)
1 cup vanilla simple syrup (recipe below)

Pour about ½ inch of water into a shallow, heavy, non-reactive saucepan and add the rhubarb. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally and then more frequently, until the pieces have mostly broken apart into a thick puree, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir until smooth then pour into a large measuring cup with a spout. (And if you don’t have a 4-cup measuring cup, get one for god’s sake. You will use it all the time and wonder why you cheaped out on yourself all these years.) You should have between 2 and 2 ¼ cups of rhubarb mash. Stir in the vanilla syrup, pour the mixture into your popsicle molds (leave a little room), insert sticks and freeze until solid. The recipe says 4-5 hours, but I find it takes more like 6-8 for mine.

Vanilla Simple Syrup
Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
½ a vanilla bean, sliced open or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean or vanilla extract. Once the syrup has cooled a bit, fish out the vanilla bean and use a pointy little knife to scrape the seeds into the syrup and then use your fingers to swish the pod around into the syrup and then put the spent pod in your ice coffee, because why not.

And then when you by accident made oatmeal. Sigh. My rhubarb has too much green in it to stay pink, but I swear it is gorgeous-tasting.