Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Strawberry-Rhubarb Lemon Squares...

Sunny lemon bars, dusted with their classic coating of confectioners' sugar, are always a delicious treat that appeals to many. Instead of that sugar-y topping, for this week's Treat Day at Jeff's office, we decided to take those bars one step further.

With a little bit of a late start, what is in prime season right now in Minnesota? Fresh, juicy ruby-red strawberries! And what other ingredient that is still going strong up here that goes well with those berries? That's right, rhubarb! We combined those two to gild the lily in these Strawberry-Rhubarb Lemon Squares.

A vanilla-scented crust is the base of these bars - the dough is a snap to combine and was easy to work with. It was not sticky at all, which made fitting it into the baking pan a breeze - the crust is baked just until set, yet not long enough to give it any color. Next, an intense lemon layer is poured on top. This is a very liquid-y mixture, but rest assured it will set up well from the added eggs, cornstarch and surprise ingredient, cornmeal! Don't use a coarse cornmeal, it should be fairly fine in texture so you don't take away from the creaminess of the lemon layer. You'll know when this layer is done as the edges and top layer of the bars should be a light golden color.

You could stop here, cool them completely and dust them with confectioners' for a basic bar cookie. However, to ratchet these up, a cooked mixture of diced strawberries, rhubarb and sugar is slathered over the top. Since the berries and rhubarb get very soft in the process of thickening them up, additional diced strawberries are stirred in once the glaze is removed from the heat, giving it a bit of texture. With an intoxicating, complex blend between sweet and tart, these over-the-top bars gave our taste buds a run for their money and left us with smile on our face while muttering "Mmmmm.....".

Usually we have leftovers for lunches, but last Saturday I had a little extra time to prepare a new dish for us to have. I wasn't sure if this Tijuana Torta would be something Jeff would enjoy, but thankfully, having an open mind, he is usually up to trying anything I make.

This torta is kind of like a burrito, but instead of being wrapped up in a tortilla, the filling is stuffed into a baguette. Black beans, salsa, a little pickled jalapeño and smoky cumin are smashed together, forming the bean paste to spread on the bottom piece of bread. Use your favorite salsa here - since we like spicier foods, I used a favorite habanero and lime salsa. On the top side, we spread a cool, creamy combo of avocado, minced onion and lime juice. If you have green cabbage on hand, you can use that for crunch. However, we weren't going to the market until Sunday, so I had to use a crisp romaine lettuce instead.

The original recipe asks you to scoop out the soft bread from the center, but I didn't want to waste it and decided to skip this part. However, after assembly, I can see why they did this as it was a little messy to eat with the bean mixture wanting to squish out. Either way, if you're looking for a speedy snack, Jeff gave this dish two thumbs up and I agree! If you're looking for a little more flavor, melt on some Monterey Jack cheese to the bean side of this vegetarian sandwich.


  1. i was looking for a yummy desert with rhubarb and this sounded great. However, I did not have any strawberries, but at a ton of blueberries. So I made it with them instead. Let me tell you... SOOOOO good. I seriously think I could kill for these now!!! lol. They were very tart, but not overly. SO GOOD!

  2. Heather - Glad to hear the blueberry sub worked well! I'll have to note that down.

  3. we also recently tried this tijuana torta... YUMMY!!!

  4. Heather - Awesome! Thanks for the feedback.