I am trying to make the best of this prolonged spring that sometimes goes back to late winter but never goes far enough to turn into summer. I am enjoying the best of this season which often lasts just a blink of the eye, eating as much spring fruit as I possibly can. Finding local rhubarb along with strawberries give me the greatest happiness, and I can never get tired of having them around, fearing that sooner or later they will be gone, disappeared from the market stalls. With rhubarb, in particular, after looking for it for so long in Italy, I feel as I should make the best of it –I’m trying.
To tell you the truth, I am a bit allergic to strawberries, but I just can’t help eating them. I love biting into their meaty flesh and enjoying their tart, sweet and refreshing flavor, closing my eyes and thinking of summer memories. I have to pause myself or else my face would be covered with red dots. It is not easy, I am sure you understand. I am not even trying that hard –if worse comes to worse, I will have some cute freckles for a few days. That’s fine.
My fridge has a limited capacity and it surely couldn’t host my compulsive shopping of strawberries and rhubarb, therefore making compote, jam or roasting part of the fruit was pretty much mandatory. I went for the latter option, that sounded the best as far as effort/result ratio goes. No complaints. I was so shocked and amazed by the result that I wandered why I never thought of it before. The roasting process enhances the natural sweetness and tartness of the fruits. Adding only a couple of key ingredients to the pan, I obtained two very different yet equally tasty results. I chose to pair the rhubarb with vanilla and strawberries with balsamic, and sprinkled both batches with a little raw sugar for some added sweetness.
I loved both equally and I used them insatiably on my morning bowl of cereal, which is one of the ways you can use them. I imagine them being perfect on pancakes, waffles, french toast, biscuits, cakes, inside muffins or scones, or even as a side for your cheese platter. I believe rhubarb would go well with pork, too. The clear advantage of roasting fruit, besides enhancing their flavor, is that it prolongs their shelf life and reduces the amount of space they occupy in your refrigerator –which is especially important if you have a small one like me. Plus, you rinse and chop just once, and you’ll have a pot of fruit handy and ready to use anytime you want.
As for me, the roasted rhubarb made for the perfect topping for my bowl of steel cut oatmeal, while the strawberries ended in my overnight muesli bowl. Both combinations are delicious, but of course you can swap or use your favorite breakfast cereal recipe, or any of the options mentioned above.
Balsamic Roasted Strawberries
- 400 gr/ about 15 oz fresh strawberries
- 1 T raw dark brown sugar
- 1 T water
- 1 T balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350F/ 180C. Line a non stick baking sheet with edges or wide cake pan with parchment. In a large bowl, combine sugar, water and vinegar. Cut each strawberry in halves, add them to the sugar syrup, toss well to coat, then transfer to the baking dish. Pour on top any leftover liquid. Roast for about 30 minutes, until the juices are thickened but not burnt. Remove from the oven and transfer from the baking dish to a bowl using a spatula. Let cool before serving.
Overnight Muesli with Roasted Strawberries
This is my rule of thumb for making muesli batches: 3 cups of cereal, 1/2 cup nuts, 1/2 cup seeds or other add ins, 1/2 cup dried fruit. It makes for a nutritionally complete mix and it has the good dose of sweetness and crunch to it. If you feel that the final result is not sweet enough for you –some mornings I need more sweetness as well– I suggest you serve the muesli with some extra maple syrup or honey.
For the muesli mix:
- 3 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup flaxseed
- 2 T chia seeds
- 2 T hemp powder (optional)
Combine all the ingredients and store in a air tight mason jar.
For each serving:
- 1/2 cup muesli mix
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup natural whole yogurt
- 1/4 cup balsamic roasted strawberries
The night before you want your bowl of muesli, combine the muesli mix with water and yogurt, stir well and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove from the refrigerator, stir again –add a drop or two of milk if the muesli thickened too much overnight- and top with the roasted strawberries.
Vanilla Roasted Rhubarb
- 3 stalks of rhubarb (about 250 gr/ a bit more than 1/2 lb)
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean)
- 2 T raw natural cane sugar
- 2 T water
Preheat the oven to 350F/180 C. Cut the rhubarb in 1-inch pieces and places in a non-stick baking dish. In a small bowl, combine lemon zest and juice, vanilla, sugar and water. Pour on the rhubarb pieces and toss to coat well. Bake for about 20 minutes, until rhubarb is soft but still holds its shape. Remove and let cool before serving.
Steel Cut Oatmeal with Roasted Rhubarb
- 1/2 cup steel cut oats
- 1 cup waterpinch of salt
- 1/2 cup whole organic milk
- 1/ 2 cup chopped almonds
- 4 T roasted rhubarb
- 2 T maple syrup
The night before, bring the water with salt to a boil, add oats, stir, remove from heat and let soak overnight, covered. In the morning, put back on the stove, add milk and cook until creamy and tender, about 5 minutes. Serve in individual bowls and top with almonds, rhubarb and maple syrup.
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