I’m trying really hard to get my family into the mindset of eating seasonally. I’d love to say it’s solely because I want my family to be in tune with the natural world, or because I try to eat locally, which tends to go hand and hand with seasonally. But really, when you get down to it, it’s about taste. If you eat something that’s at the peak of it’s season, more like than not, it’s going to be better than eating a poor imitation from halfway around the world the wrong time of the year. Plus, there’s the added bonus that it’s usually cheaper. I mean, I can buy organic grapes from chile in the middle of winter, for $4.00 a pound, but they’re a helluva lot cheaper and more flavorful if I wait until I can get them for $1.99 a pound at the farmer’s market at the beginning of September, not to mention much less beat up.
Another bonus to seasonal eating is that it gives you something to look forward to. It’s like my own little celebration of the changing seasons…from Hood Strawberries in May, to the first apricots in July, to Peaches and Tomatoes in August, and all the amazing squashes, apples, and pears of the fall. I think maybe the most celebratory of these must be rhubarb…the first harbinger of spring. It even LOOKS like spring, a bright pink preview of all the luscious fruits to come. I was so excited last week to see the first stalks of local rhubarb in the produce department of my grocery store, I bought all they had and ran home to make a rhubarb upside down cake.
So when I saw that the filling for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie assignment, Hungarian Shortbread, was rhubarb jam, I did a little happy dance, and ran right out to the store to grab another bagful of those lovely pink stalks.
I opted to make a different version of rhubarb jam than the one called for in the book, mainly because I wanted a larger batch of jam, some for the cookies, and some to jar and save for a less rhubarb-y time of year. I used a basic recipe calling for liquid pectin, since I had some left over from last time I made pate de fruits, and added the seeds of one vanilla bean and the microplaned zest of one lemon to give it a little complexity. I may have eaten some of the jam right out of the bowl, purely in the interest of quality control…but I did leave enough for recipe too!
This shortbread recipe is unique in that instead of pressing the dough into the pan, it’s divided into two parts and then both parts are frozen. Half the frozen dough is then grated into a pan, the jam spread on top, and then the second half of the dough is grated over the jam. The whole shebang goes in the oven, and is baked until golden on the edges, before being topped with powdered sugar and sliced into bars.
The verdict? Well I love shortbread, and I love rhubarb, so I knew it was going to be delicious. However, I think it was a tad too sweet. Next time I’ll cut waaaay back on the sugar in the jam and let some of the rhubarb’s natural tang come through. But I bet it would be great with a cup of coffee!