Farmers Markets are starting to bloom, with the recent returns of the Broadway and Columbia City markets marking the start of the season. But the nature of farming means opening day isn't the only celebration on market calendars: Between now and October, when most markets begin their winter hiatus, producers and patrons will weekly celebrate the debut of vegetables, berries and freshly-caught shellfish that haven't been seen for a year.
Voracious this year is joining the celebration with a series of poems extolling what's newly ripe and ready for sale. Each week, we'll run a poem from a local poet who's found inspiration in the region's seasonal bounty. And should you find yourself feeling similarly inspired after reading their odes to romaine lettuce, nectarines, pea vines and gooseberries, the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance has provided us with recipes featuring each of the edible muses.
Many thanks to the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance and the poets who've generously shared their work with us. We're especially indebted to the University of Washington creative writing department, PoetsWest and 826 Seattle for helping connect us with produce-minded poets.
Our series begins with a rhubarb salute from Kate Lebo, who's written her poem by selectively erasing words from the vegetable's Wikipedia entry. Lebo's poems have appeared in Best New Poets 2011, Poetry Northwest, Bateau, and The Pacific Poetry Project, among other anthologies and journals. Of special interest to Voracious readers is the University of Washington MFA candidate's Pie Stand, a semi-regular, semi-secret pie social she hosts whenever schoolwork allows. Check out her zine, A Commonplace Book of Pie, here.
For ease of reading, click the full-screen option below.
Serves four. Use a one-liter soufflé dish.
1.5 lb. (600 gr) rhubarb, washed, trimmed, cut in 1" pieces
3.5 oz. (100 gr) sugar plus 1 Tbl, plus a little extra (even better: use vanilla sugar - stick a split vanilla bean pod in a jar of sugar - it keeps for months)
1 vanilla pod (you can substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract instead of the pod if you like)
1 tsp arrowroot
1 large knob unsalted butter
5 egg whites
Cook the rhubarb first (this can be done ahead and kept in the fridge for 2 days or frozen until needed):
Put chopped rhubarb in a saucepan with 3.5 oz. (vanilla) sugar. Add the vanilla extract or if using a vanilla bean, split the vanilla pod with a small knife and scrape seeds into the pan, then put in the pod. Heat gently until rhubarb has collapsed, about 15 minutes. After about 5 minutes, add the arrowroot and mix well. Cool the rhubarb and remove the vanilla pod.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Heat butter in the soufflé dish in the oven. As soon as it has melted, spread it all over the sides of the dish and dust with powdered sugar.
Beat egg whites until they are fluffy. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff.
With a rubber spatula quickly and gently fold the rhubarb into the egg whites, mixing well. Fill the soufflé dish, then smooth off the top and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes without opening the oven. Finished, the soufflé should be brown on top, puffed up a couple inches above the rim, and soft in the center. Serve immediately before it sinks.
Hungry for more rhubarb? The Columbia City Farmers Market is hosting a rhubarb festival on May 16: Planned events include a chef demo and market shopper cook-off. Participants in the "Sweet vs. Savory" contest must register by May 15.