Without any care or tending at all, rhubarb grows into enormous stalks and leaves in the corner of my backyard every year from spring right through into late summer. It must be one of the most carefree food plants that grows in this climate. Such a treat and a nice addition to my mini garden. In the spring, I planted various herbs, hot pepper plants and tomato plants. If you have the space, enjoying the fruits of your garden harvest is surely one of the delights of summer.
Although rhubarb stems are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium, their sour taste means that they’re ordinarily stewed with sugar and used for desserts like pies and cobblers — that is why rhubarb was once known as the “pie plant” in the United States. Their sour taste also lends a wonderful tartness to strawberries with which they’re commonly combined — strawberry-rhubarb pies can be found all over around here in Ontario in the spring and summer.
Once it is cooler, I am going to make a fresh rhubarb pie with homemade pastry. Hubby and best friend Basil are chomping at the bit in anticipation. In the meantime, try these light and creamy ricotta pancakes with homemade strawberry-rhubarb syrup for a weekend breakfast.
This beautiful sweet and tart rhubarb and strawberry syrup is also great for using on ice cream or in teas, milkshakes or other drinks, and the best part of making this easy syrup is that straining the stewed fruits before reducing the syrup yields a delicious compote that you may want to consider using in a pie or cobbler too. I served up this syrup and compote on my famous light and creamy ricotta pancakes with plenty of syrup left over for ice cream when the weather turns hot again this week. The compote is also excellent served with ice cream.
Tips: choose firm and smooth rhubarb stems but avoid stems that are hard and rigid or blotched. You can also use frozen rhubarb and/or strawberries to make a syrup, but you may want to reduce the water slightly.
Ingredients for the sweet and tart homemade syrup:
1 pound fresh rhubarb, chopped
1 pound strawberries, halved or quartered
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
Bring all the ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is soft.
Strain the liquid, reserving the pulped fruits for use as a compote, and return the liquid to the pan. Bring to a simmer again and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1/2 hour to 1 hour or until the syrup has thickened to a desired consistency.
Remove from heat, pour into jars, and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Ingredients for the ricotta pancakes:
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt
zest from 1/2 lemon
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
Combine egg yolks, milk, honey and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Cover with a clean dish cloth and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter, leaving a few white streaks. Gently mix in the ricotta, leaving small chunks of cheese in the batter.
Heat a non-stick griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan with butter. When the pan is hot enough to makes drops of water dance and sputter before vanishing, pour in 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until small bubbles appear on the edges, then flip and cook for 2 more minutes or until the batter is set and the sides are golden brown.
Remove from heat and serve right away drizzled with strawberry-rhubarb syrup and with a spoonful of the compote.