Ready for rhubarb!

Hey, everyone! It’s rhubarb season! I always get excited around this time of year because I can buy or harvest fresh rhubarb for jams, preserves, pies, and more! If you’ve never had it before, it has a very distinct flavor. Raw, the smell can be likened to that of a tart, unripe pear. However, its flavor is one of a kind and is sour, savory, and slightly sweet! It is almost always cooked and can also be compressed in a vacuum sealer for a nice dessert addition. One of my favorite things to do with rhubarb is make strawberry rhubarb pie. The seasons for both of these plants overlap, which results in a naturally sweet and incredibly flavorful pie. One of the best things about rhubarb is that it does not need a lot of doctoring to taste good. With just enough seasoning, rhubarb becomes an incredibly complex element in any dish.

My memories of rhubarb start with stories from my father’s childhood. My father grew up in the north of England, and there, it was customary to see rhubarb in family gardens, growing in a thick bunch of stalks. One of the most memorable rhubarb dishes he remembers having as a child was rhubarb pie. Pastry, sugar, butter, and rhubarb are essentially what comprised this dish, and apparently the flavor was something to behold. When my dad moved to Philadelphia for work, he sought it out but realized there was little to no interest in rhubarb here. It was essentially inaccessible, and for a long time, he just went without it. As classic and once thought of as “out-of-fashion” fruits and vegetables began to come back into popularity, items such as rhubarb and previously ignored vegetables became more accessible and even more desired in mainstream eateries and grocery stores. Growing up, my family had access to rhubarb, but no one had the time or patience to make rhubarb pie. We always ate the store-bought strawberry rhubarb pies, but to me, they were incredible nonetheless. The sweet, savory, and tangy notes of the rhubarb paired so nicely with the sweet strawberry and crumbly crust. It was a rarity for that pie to last even a couple of days in the Walsh household.

After spending some time in culinary school, I’ve learned to have the patience and carve out the time to make a homemade pie. Nothing fills your house quite like the smell of homemade pastry and baked fruit. This is also a great way to use up harvested fruit that isn’t pretty enough for the table or is maybe a little underripe. Below is my very simple recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie, and it is open for adaptation.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz. cold, unsalted butter
  • 7-10 tablespoons ice water
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 ½ cups fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 ½ cups fresh rhubarb, large chop
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 2 tablespoons butter for dotting pie

Procedure:

  • Cut butter into cubes, and refrigerate until hard and cold.
  • Place a few ice cubes in 2 cups of water.
  • Once cold, pinch butter into flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
  • Use the tips of your fingers to avoid adding excess heat.
  • Once butter is pea-sized and flour is somewhat mealy, stop pinching.
  • One tablespoon at a time, add the ice water. *Humidity and temperature are important factors to consider before adding all of the water at once. I tend to add 7 tablespoons of water when it’s warm and 9-10 when it’s cold out.
  • Do not overmix dough. Once combined, wrap in plastic and set in the fridge 30 minutes to an hour. *Pie dough can be held in the fridge longer and also frozen.
  • Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Once chilled, flour a surface for rolling, and cut the pie dough into 2/3 and 1/3 pieces with a bench knife.
  • Roll the dough to 1/8 of an inch thick.
  • Lightly butter a 9-inch pie dish, and press the larger rolled out piece of dough to the sides and bottom.
  • Once tightly fit to the dish, refrigerate for another 20-30 minutes.
  • Toss strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, tapioca starch, and lemon juice together and place into pie shell.
  • Roll the rest of the pie dough on top of the pie, cut excess, and secure top to base with water.
  • Tuck the crust underneath itself once to form a strong seal and flaky edge.
  • Crimp as you see fit. I usually use the tips of my fingers and pinch every ¼ inch with my thumb between my other thumb and index finger.
  • If you have a pie collar, use it. If not, make a collar for your pie out of foil.
  • Slice a small “x” into the center of the pie’s lid, so that steam can escape.
  • Egg washing the pie is optional; I usually don’t.
  • Bake pie for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and flaky.
  • For the final 10 minutes, remove the pie collar or foil.
  • Allow pie to cool on a rack for at least 1 hour. The longer it cools, the better!
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Once you have made this recipe a couple of times, it becomes second nature. When working with rhubarb, it is customary to peel off the outside layer, which comes off easily. Large pieces also help to maintain a filling with body, so that each piece of fruit is identifiable. Last, thoroughly chilling the ingredients for your dough, working efficiently, and getting the ingredients ready before you start will lead to a beautiful and flaky pie crust. One of the best things about this pie is that there are only a few ingredients and the flavors of the fruit are the highlight of the dish. For another interesting way to use rhubarb, it can be peeled, compressed in a vacuum sealer, and circulated in a hot water bath with various types of vinegars, sugars, herbs, and spices! Below is a quick compressed rhubarb recipe that livens up any plate!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rhubarb, 2-inch pieces, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon picked thyme
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Procedure:

  • Place ingredients in a vacuum seal bag.
  • Seal and remove any air within.
  • Circulate in a water bath at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
  • Remove contents from bag and enjoy.

I hope that these recipes come in handy, and they can also be changed in a number of ways. I always have a lot of fun making pie, and it’s always a crowd pleaser. I urge anyone reading this to experiment and play around with rhubarb while it’s in season. It has such a wonderful flavor profile and really rounds out overly sweet and extremely rich foods. Try adding it to the next batch of jam you make, or maybe add it to a really meaty stew for a refreshing tang. The possibilities with rhubarb are limitless, and I hope this has shed some light on an amazing plant!

-Steven Walsh, Walnut Hill College Student Leader

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Japchae: A quick and easy side dish

Hey, everyone! This week, I really wanted to share a dish that is perfect for the summer. When it starts to get warm out, I find myself making all sorts of picnic foods to enjoy outside. I live right near Ridley Creek State Park, and whenever I have a free moment, I like to go for hikes and a quick picnic. The dishes I usually gravitate towards are ones that are especially tasty at room temperature. I like to have many options while eating, but, when I’m hiking, it isn’t always practical to bring loads of side dishes. One thing that I really like to do is make a dish that has many ingredients and can tide me over until I get back home. Stir-fries or ploughman’s lunches are always a great choice for outdoor eating. One recipe in particular that I really enjoy is called Japchae.

Japchae is a side dish from South Korea that is made up of sweet potato noodles, beef, a variety of mushrooms, and other vegetables. Especially during this time of year, when vegetables are flavorful and fresh, this dish really highlights each ingredient. I first came across this dish when I met my wife, Minju. I was amazed at how each flavor was preserved and the cooking procedure that went along with this. There is a very specific way to make Japchae, and each ingredient must be cooked separately according to its color and how long it takes to cook. This procedural cooking process, in my opinion, makes each flavor truly independent but in harmony with the others. Oftentimes, the flavor of a vegetable gets lost in the cooking process, but this does not seem to be the case with properly made Japchae.

The best Japchae I have ever had was at my wife’s family’s house in Seoul, South Korea. I was lucky enough to make a trip last August and experienced such an amazing and beautiful culture in person. I was amazed at how much care my jangmonim (mother-in-law) put into her cooking and how incredible her ingredients were. She served an enormous mixing bowl’s worth of Japchae that night, and it was accompanied by numerous side dishes and my jangin eoreun’s (father-in-law’s) homemade grape wine. I hope that you enjoy this recipe and that it shows just how versatile a handful of vegetables can really be!

Ingredients:
• 1 pound top round beef, sliced
• 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
• ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon mirin
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 large onion, julienne
• 1 cup oyster mushrooms, torn
• 1 cup fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, baton
• 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
• 350 grams dry sweet potato noodles
• 3 cups baby spinach
• 1 large carrot, julienne
• 1 red bell pepper, julienne
• 1 jalapeño pepper, ¼ moons
• Grapeseed oil or favorite high-heat cooking oil, as needed

Japchae ingredients

Procedure:
• Slice beef thinly and marinate first six ingredients for up to 24 hours. (Use only ½ the sugar and ¼ cup soy sauce for marinade.)
• Prepare vegetables and arrange so that they are separated and easily accessible.
• Set up a 12-inch sauté pan, a large mixing bowl, and a pot of boiling, salted water.
• Soak sweet potato noodles in cold water for 20 minutes.
• Blanch spinach, only so that it wilts and turns a vibrant, green color (15-30 seconds).
• Squeeze the liquid out of the spinach so that the color doesn’t run.
• At medium-high heat, cook beef, onions, garlic, and marinade in sauté pan.
• Once beef is cooked throughout, remove from pan.
• Remove remaining ingredients and sauce from pan once onions are tender.
• Add mushrooms to pan, along with enough oil to stir fry.
• Once mushrooms are cooked and pan is deglazed, remove from pan.
• Add carrots to pan with more oil, if needed.
• Remove carrots from pan once tender.
• Add red pepper to pan with more oil, if needed.
• After sweating the pepper, add the jalapeño, and cook until both are tender yet slightly crunchy.
• Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and hold.
• Transfer noodles to boiling water, and cook until tender but chewy.
• Rinse the noodles in cold water and drain.
• Add the noodles to the mixing bowl, and cut in half with scissors, if necessary.
• Add remaining sugar, toasted sesame seed oil, and soy sauce.
• With gloved hands, mix the sweet potato noodle stir-fry until combined.
• Serve immediately, or refrigerate and reheat.

A delicious stir-fry dinner ready to eat!

Some important things to note for Japchae are that the vegetables should still be slightly crunchy. As with any stir-fry, you do not want mushy, overcooked vegetables. The contrast in textures and flavors in this dish is very satisfying and is partially what makes it so great. Another tip for good Japchae is not to overcook the beef, as it will get very chewy. Finally, good temperature control in your sauté pan is essential to the outcome of this dish. You do not want to brown or add color to the vegetables. This dish is meant to be vibrant and bursting with fresh, defined colors.

This stir-fry goes really well with most foods and can also be a great side dish. In Korea, it is customary to use the wood ear and shiitake mushrooms for this dish. Wood ear mushrooms are thin and wavy black mushrooms that have a distinct but mild flavor. You can buy them dried at most Asian supermarkets. Because of the fact that it is less accessible and more expensive than other mushroom types, I like to use torn oyster mushrooms instead of the wood ear. This recipe can easily be doubled or adjusted for how many people are eating, so I hope that you enjoy it on your own or try making it for a potluck!

-Steven Walsh, Walnut Hill College Student Leader

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Celebrate Cinco de “May-o” with these delicious mayonnaise recipes!

By Steven Walsh

Hey, everyone! My name is Steven Walsh, and you’re currently reading the new WHC Food Blog. In this, I hope to show some of the recipes and techniques that I use at home and have used in professional settings. I, as well as lots of others here, love to cook and am passionate about food. Since starting at Walnut Hill College, I’ve wanted to create a forum and blog that allows people to communicate and share the things they love. As I learn more on my culinary journey, I aim to share what I like best with everyone reading. There are few things that I am not fond of, but there is nothing that I won’t try. I’m really excited to get this started, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and comments once this takes off. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!

This week, I wanted to share two recipes that I use a lot at home. Despite my lack of pastry experience, this is partially a post about baking! To start though, I’ll be sharing a mayonnaise recipe that completely changed my mind about mayo.

Growing up, there were no ifs, ands, or buts, I hated mayonnaise. I didn’t like the concept, and I sure didn’t like the taste. Something seemed to be bitter or rancid every time I tried it, so I stopped trying it. As all of us do, I expanded my palate as I grew up and began to tolerate mayonnaise. It still wasn’t my preference, but it seemed like an alright substitute for butter on a sandwich. This opinion of mine would be completely flipped as I started to learn more about mayonnaise. As I began my education at WHC, I was given the task many times to make mayonnaise. Each time I made it, I liked it, but there was always that background rancid flavor. I had finally had enough and started to do some research on different oils and their properties. After playing around with different ideas, to make a long story short, I began to realize that the heat tolerance and neutral flavor of the oil was what had the biggest impact on the mayonnaise’s outcome. I wanted to test this, so I used my all-time favorite high-heat cooking oil, grapeseed oil.

“Whoa.” This was all I could think after what had just happened. It was a Saturday that I had off from work, and I was playing around in the kitchen as I often do. With the thoughts of grapeseed oil still fresh in my mind, I substituted the usual canola oil with it and made my mayonnaise. As a disclosure, I have tools at home that not everyone may have access to in a home kitchen. However, these recipes are adaptable, and I will always do my best to provide alternative methods. 😊

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Procedure:

  • Add ¼ cup of grapeseed oil, egg, mustard powder, and salt into food processor.
  • Blend until smooth and pale (20-30 seconds).
  • Add remaining oil in a continuous, thin stream while still blending.
  • Once finished with the oil, add the lemon juice and blend only to combine.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as preferred.
Make your own delicious homemade mayonnaise today!

I was instantly in love with this recipe. Food processor mayonnaise is a great way to save time and energy when making mayo. I actually like to use my whisk attachment on my stick blender to make this. I add the ingredients to a blender cup and use the electric whisk instead of a food processor. This recipe is really versatile, and I love using it for different things. I use it for cakes, dipping sauces, salad dressings, and more! One of my favorite mayonnaise recipes is my double chocolate mayo cake. I use small loaf tins for baking the cake and slice the cakes for dessert with some ice cream and fresh fruit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup grapeseed oil mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I use Ghirardelli)

Procedure:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Whisk together mayonnaise, vanilla, milk, and water.
  • Combine salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
  • Sift flour, cocoa, and baking powder into dry ingredients.
  • Evenly mix with a dry, wooden spoon.
  • In three stages, incorporate your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Oil 4 mini loaf tins with vegetable oil.
  • Cut strips of parchment paper long enough so that they hang out of the tins.
  • Evenly pour the batter into the tins and smooth for even baking.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool and serve.
Double Chocolate Mayo Cake

There are so many variations that can be made to both of these recipes, and I hope you get a chance to try them out. I would love to hear feedback, and pictures of cake and mayo are obviously welcome!

-Steven Walsh, Walnut Hill College Student Leader

Read Steven’s bio