In the northeast, one of the greatest culinary joys of August is eating fresh produce straight from the garden. Living in these northern latitudes means, unfortunately, there is a limited window during which fruits and vegetables flourish naturally outdoors. Therefore, it is best to take advantage of the local fresh produce from the moment it arrives at the farmers' market or sprouts in the yard, until it is too cold for stalks to grow, or the last market bushel is picked clean.
These days I've been canning tomatoes, freezing berries and making jam like crazy. I've also been doing my best to enjoy and preserve my beloved rhubarb. I have begun to freeze it, cut into small chunks and put in bags, as well as bake a few dozen batches of my favorite treats, rhubarb hazelnut oatmeal bars.
One of my missions this summer has been to get my daughter to like rhubarb, and I think these bars did the trick. They are not overly sugary, or laden with any kind of additives. Instead, the ingredients are straightforward, the preparation simple, and they taste absolutely delicious. In fact, the sugar content is so modest that I've let my daughter enjoy these for breakfast a few times, served with a nice dollop of vanilla yogurt on the side.
I make a lot of dishes with rhubarb, and what makes this one so special is the flavorful addition of chopped hazelnuts. Their warm, sweet flavor provides a nice balance to the savory rhubarb stalks and earthy oatmeal. During the summer I tend to make these on almost a weekly basis and have noticed that this recipe works well with blueberries, too.
Preparing these bars while my daughter sleeps is incredibly easy. In fact, they have usually cooled by the time she wakes up so we can enjoy them together for a late-day snack. After we've eaten I like to take her out to the garden and show her the thin rhubarb stalks that will be ready to pick in the next few weeks. I try to explain that what she is seeing is the plant she just ate, although I don't think she quite understands. She points at them and says "yummy" before walking away. Oh well, next summer she'll be able to understand the concept more easily. Which, to me, is all the more reason to get excited to see what the garden will bring next year.
Naptime's Rhubarb Hazelnut Oatmeal Bars
adapted from a recipe given to me by my childhood neighbor, Katie Sanford
3 1/2 c. rhubarb, cut into chunks
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 t. vanilla
1 1/2 c. quick oatmeal
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
2/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. finally chopped hazelnuts
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 pan, set aside.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat mix sugar, cornstarch and orange juice. Stir in vanilla. Add rhubarb and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients with butter until fully combined.
4. Pat 3/4 of oatmeal mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Pour rhubarb mixture over oatmeal and spread evenly.
5. Top rhubarb mixture with remaining 1/4 c. of oatmeal mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until oatmeal top begins to brown.
Naptime Recipe Props: These bars are a snap to prepare during naptime. If you want to make them a little sweeter it is fine to add a touch more sugar.
Naptime Stopwatch: Preparing the bars takes all of the 20 minutes, then just pop them in the oven to bake and you are all set!
Naptime Reviews: My whole family loves these bars, even my daughter. It took a while for her to get used to the savory tartness of the rhubarb, but she has converted to loving it after a few tries.