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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tulip Time

There's a lot to love about the spring.  Back when I lived in California, I didn't appreciate what it meant when the weather turned from cold to cool, to warm, and then finally to hot.  For the most part, the temperatures teetered somewhere between warm and hot, with brief interludes of cool.

Now that I reside in a four season climate, I live for the change of the seasons.  By the time we hit the end of the winter, I'm desperate for sun and warmth.  And after a hot and humid summer, I welcome the cool weather of fall and yes, I even look forward to the cold winter.  (Take note: I do not look forward, nor do I enjoy, the gloomy skies that generally accompany the cold weather.)

But I have to admit that my absolute favorite time of the year is tulip time.  Spring is the best season of all.  In my neighborhood, tulips are de rigueur.  Perky tulips line the walkways leading up to every front door.  It's almost as though there's a tulip clause written into every contract to buy or sell a house around here.

Back when we first moved here, I didn't know about the whole tulip thing.  It was only because I hired a gardening service that had been servicing our neighborhood for a zillion years, that I found out that tulips were an absolute must.  I'll never forget when I got the call from the gardening service:

Gardening Service:  "What color tulips would you like?"
Me: "Huh?"
Them:  "Tulips.  What color would you like?"
Me:  "Tulips?  I don't know.  Yellow?"
Them:  "Thanks."

And then, as though by a miracle, yellow tulips sprung to life the following spring.

And thus began my tulip education.  Now I know much more.  I know that I like to mix some white in with the yellow, and I know that I like the really tall tulips.  I also know that we have the best tulips in Squirrel Hill.  People have told me that, so it must be true.

Rhubarb is another thing I love about spring.  And rhubarb stewed with strawberries and raspberries is even better.

Happy spring!

Stewed Rhubarb & Red Berries 
( Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten)


2 pounds fresh rhubarb cut in ¾-inch-chunks (6 to 8 cups)
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
½ pint fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Triple Sec liqueur, optional
Heavy cream or vanilla ice cream for serving


Place the rhubarb in a large saucepan, add the sugar, salt, and 2/3 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and starts to fall apart. Remove from the heat, stir in the strawberries, raspberries, lemon juice, orange juice, and Grand Marnier, if using, and allow to cool. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold with a drizzle of cream or a scoop of ice cream.

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