The first rhubarb of the season signals change, a sign that spring is here, and with it the promises of longer days and sunny skies, verdant parks and gardens in bloom. Those magenta stalks growing from the ground beckon the gardener-baker, conjuring up countless recipes from slowly-simmered compotes to warm, fresh-from-the-oven cakes. As the baker washes and trims the rhubarb, the plant releases its crisp scent infused with the aromas of grass, vine-ripened tomatoes, and citrus.
The taste of rhubarb—stewed, roasted, simmered, or baked—exudes springtime. It gives one the feeling of being outside as the sun shines through a billow of faint clouds, chasing away the overcast sky and illuminating the garden with its warm rays. One almost feels the soft breeze caress the skin as it rustles the leaves of the magnolia trees and carries the aroma of lilac and honeysuckle on its wings. This gentle scene returns year after year, reminding its observers that winter is gone and warmer days will follow.
Rhubarb is much-loved in Norway, perhaps in part due to the message that it brings. Norwegians celebrate the crop with an abundance of recipes, one of which is rhubarb fromage. This molded dessert demonstrates the elegant simplicity apparent in so many Norwegian recipes. Prepared with little more than rhubarb, freshly-squeezed orange juice, gelatin, and sugar, rabarbrafromasj preserves the grassy-tart flavor of the rhubarb, accenting it with the sweet juice of oranges.
The authors of Norwegian National Recipes suggest simply layering the components of the dessert on a serving dish and refrigerating until serving. The molded nature of the recipe calls for structure, however, so I have included directions in the recipe below for using a springform pan. Served with whipped cream and perhaps some crisp cookies as the original recipe suggests, this salmon-pink dessert carries with it the essence of spring, and would be perfect as part of a Syttende Mai menu.
Speaking of Syttende Mai, I’ll be sharing more recipes for the occasion over the next few weeks, so please subscribe via e-mail or RSS and “Like” my Facebook page to get updates on new posts.
Norwegian Rhubarb Fromage (Rabarbrafromasj)
Adapted from Norwegian National Recipes
1 pound rhubarb
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
2 envelopes Knox gelatine
Juice from 2 navel oranges (approximately 1 cup)
Whipped cream, for serving
Fresh mint, for garnish
Trim rhubarb and cut stalks into 1/3-inch pieces. Combine in a saucepan with water and sugar and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until the rhubarb is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the rhubarb pieces to a bowl using a slatted spoon and reserve, then add the gelatine to the water, stirring until completely dissolved. Stir in the orange juice, then let the liquid cool until lukewarm.
While the liquid and rhubarb cool, prepare an 8- or 9-inch springform pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper. Spread the rhubarb across the bottom, then beat the liquid until frothy and slowly pour over the rhubarb, taking care to keep the rhubarb evenly distributed.
Refrigerate until the dessert is completely chilled and set. Place a serving plate on top of the pan and then invert, removing the dessert and carefully removing the paper. Serve with whipped cream and garnish with fresh mint.