Hark! It's finally here! The first day of summer y'all! I just broke so many blogging rules by my gratuitous use of exclamation marks, but whatevs. Summer is here and I'm happy. Considering I was buried under a cloak of never-ending winter, I need this summer. And I need it to be good. Thoughts of these sun-soaked days are what kept me going when there was 4 feet of snow remaining in my yard mid-April. These are the days not to be taken for granted. So get all up in your summer. Roll around in it. Breathe it in and let it take over you. Make it the best short-term relationship you've ever had.
My biggest summer pleasure is walking around barefoot, especially to the back corner of my yard where my veg garden thrives. Right now it's a mess of tiny weeds and shoots and leafy things. The rain has left it too wet to weed (at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it) but one of these days I'll have to head out and try to differentiate between it all. Note to self *labeling rows could come in handy next year*. One plant that can't be missed is my friend rhubarb. It's a giant. Those huge, poisonous leaves loom over blushed, tart stalks of fruit - the first offering of summer's bounty.
So what to make with the first taste of the garden? I could have done cakey, crumbly, jammy things - and they are yet to come - but I had a craving for a good clafoutis. All of the ingredients were already in my pantry: milk, sugar, eggs, flour, and vanilla beans. I always have vanilla beans. To me, they are worth the splurge, especially if you are a baking maniac like me. If you aren't, then a good teaspoon of extract is just fine too - you'll just be missing out on those sexy specks of black scattered throughout the custard. And what a custard it is! Soft and vanilla scented, yet it firms up when it cools, making it an ideal breakfast, or midnight snack. Roasting the rhubarb promotes a lovely caramelization, yet it still keeps its shape when the smooth, eggy batter is poured over and baked until it's golden and gorgeous. Kind of like those days you need to hold on to.
Cut into wedges, dust with icing sugar and add a smattering of just-picked violas (oh that smell!). Cheers to you and your summer. I hope the next three months treat you well.
Roasted Rhubarb & Vanilla Bean Clafoutis
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 tbsp cane sugar (or granulated)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup cane sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half and scraped
1 cup milk (I used whole)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp lemon zest
pinch of salt
In a medium bowl, stir together the rhubarb, 2 tbsp sugar and cinnamon. Let stand for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350*F. Arrange rhubarb in bottom of 8x8 baking dish or 9 inch pie plate. Roast for 15 minutes. Let it cool so it's just warm to touch. Dollop the butter amongst the rhubarb, taking a pastry brush and brushing butter around the sides of the pan.
Meanwhile, prepare batter. Whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla and milk. Whisk in flour, lemon zest, salt and beat it well so no lumps. (Batter can be prepared 30 minutes ahead of time.) Pour batter of cooled rhubarb. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden. Serve warm, at room temp or cold. Makes a grand breakfast. Serves 4. Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.