There is no rhubarb to be had in Sacramento.
Seriously, I’ve looked everywhere. I combed the aisles of the Farmer’s Markets and called every super market and Co-Op in two counties and I’ve come up empty-handed.
BF’s sister insists that she just bought some at Raley’s market the other day, but my own queries result in confused produce boys who have no idea what I was talking about and who swore they nary a stalk had graced their aisles. This leads me to wonder if either the produce boys are simply confused or liars. Another theory is that BF’s sister is having a laugh at my own expense. Perhaps she simply doesn’t know rhubarb from red kale? The latter would be most depressing as she’s a professional baker and, thus, she should know better. Furthermore, if this is the case, I would assume her “rhubarb” pie to be just terrible.
It’s April, though. It must be out there somewhere. It’s like hunting for a four leaf clover in a field. You know they exist; you just have to get on your hands and knees and search. Still, I’m not sure I want to pluck every green strand of grass looking for one. Sometimes you just have to call it quits.
This particularly sucks because the last three posts were supposed to feature rhubarb. (Well, four, now.) No firm stalks sitting on any tables or displays signaling to me in neon fuchsia brighter than a 1980’s track suit. I was happy to settle for the pale seawater green variety that admittedly tastes the same but lacks the colorful pop. Yet, there was nothing.
So, instead, I decided to just get creative. This is something that sometimes works out and sometimes causes small kitchen fires or the shellacking of the bottom of my oven in a black carbon crust that used to be something edible, like sugar or cream.
I began my culinary snipe hunt for inspiration by tumbling through the cupboards checking labels and looking through half used bags of fruits and coconut flakes. Eventually, I was going so far back into the reaches of the pantry that I was practically in Narnia before I remembered that my friend, Blair, an eneologist and farmer with an all-American appearance, had gifted me a huge bag of walnuts from his parent’s orchard.
On the counter below sat a small bunch of fresh rosemary given to me by another friend. Normally, I left rosemary out to hang in the kitchen and perfume the room, something I learned in college as a way to combat stinky roommates. I wasn’t sure what Paul had done to this particular plant but it had to be wrapped up at all times. To free it from its plastic confines was to make the entire kitchen smell like every tree in Tahoe was having an orgy in my kitchen. I love the piney scent of rosemary but this smelled like every nefarious needle was intent on going up my nose and stabbing my brain.
I decided then and there to combine the two. I had plans to serve some cheese as an appetizer to some guests that night having come into a precocious wedge of Nicasio Reserve in Davis and still having a hunk of Maytag blue on hand. I figured a complimentary snack of rosemary roasted walnuts would make for a sensational accompaniment.
I gave the rosemary a fine mince before tossing it into a bowl with the walnuts, a dash of cayenne, some olive oil, and a bit of melted butter because why not add butter? A flick of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper finished it off.
The smell as it baked was warm and coniferous. It was impossible not to be invigorated from it. It was as if the kitchen were converted to an aromatherapy studio and the green perfume made the air seductive and clarifying. Indeed, the roasting walnuts were electric to the senses.
It was hard to remember why I had any longing for rhubarb after these little treats. Salty, verdant, and with a flavor that’s wise and husky like voice of someone’s aging grandfather. So yeah… to heck with the rhubarb. Sometimes creativity and a sack of walnuts just win out.
Rosemary Roasted Walnuts
Recipe adapted from Willow Pond Herbs
1 pound walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, well chopped
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
Preheat over to 325°F. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to mix. Spread on a baking sheet large enough to hold the nuts in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes being sure to stir once or twice. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve right away or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.