YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grandma Rosie’s Rhubarb

Last week, I wrote about my Grandma Rosie’s chopped eggplant, and it was a huge hit! So now, this week, with the rhubarb starting to poke up in the garden, I thought I’d write about her rhubarb. But first a few words about the woman herself.

My Grandma Rosie was an extraordinarily good cook. I mean — really, really good. She made chicken soup, like my friends’ grandmas, but she also made many dishes that I never saw in any other grandmas’ homes, dishes like stuffed veal roasts and chicken fricassee, chopped eggplant (see last week’s post), stuffed peppers and stuffed cabbage, homemade water bagels, chopped green beans, salads of every imaginable variety, potatoes and spinach, calves foot jelly (p’cheh), and all kinds of other delicacies. Her kitchen was always warm, her table was always full, and her creative expression seemed unlimited.

Grandma Rosie wasn’t nearly as interested in baking as in cooking, however, so there were just a few desserts, and they usually consisted of some kind of fruit. My favorite, hands down, was her rhubarb. The mix of sweet and tart has always been absolutely irresistible to me.

1 pound rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces (approx 3 cups)
2 apples, chopped (sometimes she used a pint of strawberries instead)
1/4 cup raisins
juice of 1 lemon plus zest from 1/2 of lemon
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place ingredients in covered dish, stir, and cook in 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir, and cook for 15 minutes more.

You can serve this plain or you can dress it up with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, a spoonful of unsweetened whipped cream, or a little fresh cream poured on top. The last few times I made it I added to the recipe a small (finger-tip sized) nub of ginger chopped into into very tiny pieces. I’m pretty sure Grandma Rosie would have gone crazy for it. She loved when we took her recipes one step further.

Grandma Rosie’s rhubarb is delicious served warm, cold, or at room temperature. You can’t go wrong.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grandma Rosie’s Chopped Eggplant

On this Mother’s Day 2019, here is my present to you: Grandma Rosie’s Chopped Eggplant. This recipe means so much more to me than simply the sum of its ingredients. We used to make it for special holidays, and always in a big wooden bowl with what we reverently called “the chopper,” a utensil whose correct name — I have since learned — is actually “mezzaluna,” which accurately describes its half-moon shape. The bowl and its contents would pass among my grandmother and whomever else was helping out in the kitchen, each of us chopping for as long as we were able, until our chopping arm was aching and it was time for the bowl to be transferred to the next lap. We all chopped, but only Grandma Rosie decided when the eggplant was ready.
On a recent visit to Jerusalem to visit my son and daughter-in-law, who asked me to make this recipe for them to serve at a special celebration, I discovered neither wooden bowl nor mezzaluna, nor even a food processor. What to do? Improvise! I would never have guessed that I could reproduce this recipe with just a knife, fork, and cutting board, but that is exactly what happened. Grandma Rosie would have been so proud, and I like to imagine that this is how chopped eggplant was prepared (perhaps by Grandma Rosie’s own grandmother before her?) some long-ago time before wooden bowls and choppers became “de rigueur” in the Eastern European kitchen.
Note: I usually roast the eggplants the night before I plan to make the recipe, so they can cool overnight.
1. Puncture 4 med-large eggplants with a fork or knife in a few places, and roast on high heat (475F) in oven until skins are blackened and flesh is soft. Start checking after 30 minutes, but it may take up to an hour or so. Allow to cool completely.
2. Chop 6 medium yellow onions coarsely.
3. Add 4 onions worth (2/3 of the pile) to a large frying pan with generous amount of sizzling olive oil (3-4 Tbsp). Stir frequently on med to high heat until onions are clear and edges are browning. Set aside.
4. Sprinkle remaining onions with one and one-half teaspoons of salt and chop as fine as possible, even until the onions begin to become paste-like.
5. Use the back of a fork to mash the eggplant with all the onions (cooked and raw) until well mixed.
6. If you like, you can also add one-half teaspoon black pepper, or mash a couple cloves of fresh garlic with the raw onion, or sprinkle the top with parsley prior to serving. Also, use a food processor if you like, but be careful to pulse just a few times or the texture will become thick and gummy.
Serves 6-8, warm or cold.
Thank you, Grandma Rosie, and Happy Mother’s Day to you.