rhubarbSpring has official arrived, but not in our kitchens. This is the time of year when cooks grow weary of the same old root vegetables and winter greens and start yearning for some tender, young produce to play with in the kitchen, like fresh fava beans and strawberries.

We’re all eager to push the season, but that’s not always a good thing. It’s better to be patient and let Mother Nature finish her work in the garden.

In order to get a taste of spring, I went on a shopping trip to the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market last weekend and picked up some beautiful lettuce, radishes and green garlic from Ortiz Brothers in Santa Rosa, along with some fresh eggs from Hector’s Honey. That’s going to have to tide me over for now.

Meanwhile, keep your eye out for rhubarb, an early spring vegetable that works wonderfully in baked goods. Here’s a quick and easy rhubarb recipe from “Farmers Market Cookbook: Harvesting a Fresh Look at Local Flavor” (Oxmoor House, 2010), a new cookbook from Southern Living magazine.

 

Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake

Serves 8

¼ cup butter

½ cup chopped pecans

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped

4 rhubarb stalks (about ½ pound)

1 16-ounce package pound cake mix

¾ cup milk

2 large eggs

½ cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extra

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a 10 ½-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Stir in pecans, brown sugar and candied ginger until sugar dissolves. Remove pecans from pan.

Cut 2 rhubarb stalks into 4 (4-inch) pieces; cut each piece lengthwise into thin strips. Chop remaining 2 stalks. Place rhubarb strips into bottom of skillet in a spoke design. Top with pecans and chopped rhubarb.

Prepare pound cake mix according to package directions using ¾ cup milk and 2 large eggs; add sour cream and vanilla. Spoon over rhubarb.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes on a wire rack. Turn out onto a serving platter; serve with ice cream, if desired.