The ruby red stalks of our rhubarb here at Rabbit Hill are starting to grow like crazy, and I’m enjoying a culinary burst of energy. A perennial plant that is actually vegetable, rhubarb is one of the first spring foods (along with dandelion greens and fiddleheads) that herald a welcome change in our eating patterns.
Most folks enjoy the taste of mouth-puckering sour rhubarb in pies, like Strawberry – Rhubarb. Since flaky piecrust is not my specialty, I’m inclined to combine rhubarb with eggs for custard, or bake into muffins sweetened with maple syrup. The juice from cooked rhubarb makes a delicate base for ice cream, and also cans well (Ruby Juice) for the pantry.
The recipe for Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars is gluten free, and one that I developed as a food service dessert (one that feeds 50 people) that highlights local Maine foods. The rhubarb is first baked in a hot oven with sugar and cornstarch. When the slices have softened and the juices are clear, lower the oven temperature, spread with a cheesecake layer made with eggs and goat cheese over the top and bake until set.
Eliminating the traditional bottom, butter and sugar-laden crust saves both prep time and caloric intake, about 120 calories per serving. The secret to portioning these nutritious bars is to allow them to cool completely before cutting, overnight in the refrigerator works best. Of course, if you just can’t wait that long, Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars make a delicious breakfast treat.
Rhubarb Cheesecake Bars
- 1 pound rhubarb sliced into thin pieces (about 4 cups)
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ½ pound goat cheese or cream cheese or a combination of both
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/8 teaspoon orange extract
- Butter an 8” by 12” pan. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the sliced rhubarb, stir, and let sit for about 10 minutes. Spread the rhubarb mixture in the bottom of the buttered pan.
- Bake the rhubarb in a 425-degree oven until the cornstarch cooks and the juices turn clear, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees.
- Beat together the goat cheese, sugar, eggs and orange extract until smooth and creamy. Pour over the top of the rhubarb and smooth the top. Bake until set, about 40 – 45 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely (overnight in the refrigerator is best) before serving. Cut into 12 pieces