We have returned from a memorable experience of seven days in Lourdes, France, with the Catholic Order of Malta, which I found too spiritually profound to relate in this column. However, when we rode through the nearby valley up to the village of Sainte Savin, I was reminded of our upcoming Memorial Day observances by the vision of crimson red poppies studding the emerald ranges, reminiscent of Flanders Fields in World War I.
Then I was astonished to see a large patch of globular California golden poppies. I wondered if they are considered an invasive plant in that area. I can say I was impressed by the delicious French cuisine and service at our hotel, including the sumptuous potage (soups) personally ladled-up tableside from large tureens carried by the waitpersons. I must add that the preparation of vegetables for us did not measure up to the quality of varied entrees and bread. In a word: overcooked.
Our first stop back home was at the Cambria Farmers Market for early season asparagus, yellow squash, avocados, cherimoya (custard apples), cherries, strawberries, and some luscious Royal Blenheim apricots brought in from Fresno. In a word: scrumptious.
Now its also time for rhubarb, so I asked my friend and confrere Toni Martinez about her use of the ruby red stalks she grows on Lodge Hill in raised beds, from starts gathered at the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. (They had gone wild amongst the native and non-native plants behind the former Coast Guard housing.)
Toni romantically likes to think that personnel grew them back in the 60s from starts garnered from the garden of the original lightkeepers wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Thorndyke, whose recipe for rhubarb jam is included in the recently available Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Cook Book.
Toni prepares husband Abels favorite dessert for volunteers at the lighthouse, sometimes doubled or tripled in a greased or sprayed 8- by 8-inch pan. Be sure to check below for her other suggestions.
Lighthouse Rhubarb Crisp (Serves 6) 4 cups diced rhubarb 1/2 tsp. salt 1-1/3 to 2 cups granulated sugar (depending on tartness) Topping: 1-1/2 cup brown sugar 1 cup flour 1 cup oats 2 tsp. cinnamon 2/3 cup butter, margarine, or healthful substitute Combine rhubarb, salt and sugar; place in an ungreased 10- by 6- by 2-inch baking dish. Mix the topping ingredients and sprinkle over rhubarb. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Serve warm or cold topped with Cool Whip (nonfat is fine), whipped cream, or ice cream. You may substitute strawberries for half the rhubarb. I used one-half package of strawberry Jello in place of some of the sugar. It tasted great and held together well, she says. My older, wilder fruit tends to be tough and stringy, so I dice and freeze it in zipper bags. Be sure to drain it when thawed, and if it is still watery, mix in a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch with the sugar. When using Jello, no cornstarch is necessary. Hope you all enjoy this!
Please send your seasonal recipes to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.