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Eating for Life | Rhubarb parfait a not-too-sweet summer treat

Just a sprinkle of sugar tames the tartness of roasted rhubarb.

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA
The Kansas City Star

Rhubarb is commonly known as the “pie plant.”

The tart vegetable is often baked into pies or processed into jams, jellies and preserves. Most parts of the plant are inedible, save for the rosy, celerylike stalks. The leaves and rhizomes contain oxalic acid, which can be deadly.

And the stalks are too acid to eat raw. “All that is needed to tame their tartness, however, is a little cooking in a lot of sugar,” according to Jeanne Anderson and Barbara Deskins, authors of “The Nutrition Bible.”

But too much sugar can add excess calories to the diet, and, frankly, we’re not fond of artificial sweeteners.

The Star’s Roasted Rhubarb Parfaits are a clever way to indulge in the sweet-tart taste of rhubarb without adding a boatload of sugar. A few tablespoons of sugar sprinkled over the rhubarb before roasting renders enough sweetness. Much of that bubbly sugar syrup is left behind when a slotted spoon is used to transfer the pieces to the top of the parfait.

Two other ways we added sweetness, plus nutrition: We combined dates, which are more than half sugar but contain protein and iron, with nutritious pecans to create a crust and topping for the parfait. Honey Greek yogurt is another way to sneak in sweetness while adding twice as much protein as regular yogurt.

Rhubarb is low in calories and contains fiber, manganese, vitamin C and potassium.

• Shopping tip: Choose crisp stalks with a deep magenta hue and leaves that are blemish-free. Rhubarb keeps for up to three days in the refrigerator if wrapped tightly in a plastic bag.

Dates keep for six months if stored in a cool, dry place or up to a year in the refrigerator.

There are plenty of brands of Greek yogurt in the dairy case: read the labels to choose one that is nonfat and contains the fewest calories.

•  Cooking tip : Toasting the pecans intensifies their flavor. To toast the pecans, spread them in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until toasted.

Roasted Rhubarb Parfaits

Makes 6 servings

3/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

5 tablespoons sugar

3/4 cup toasted pecan pieces

4 dates, pitted and cut in half

Pinch of salt

3 containers (5.3 ounces each) Greek nonfat honey yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Arrange rhubarb on baking sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with sugar. Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes; remove foil cover and continue roasting for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a food processor, pulse pecans, dates and salt until finely ground.

In six, 1/2 cup ramekins, place 1 tablespoon of pecan mixture and pat to form crust.

Divide yogurt evenly among ramekins. Using a slotted spoon, spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons rhubarb over yogurt. Sprinkle remaining pecan mixture on top.

Per serving: 154 calories (58 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 14 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 24 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss. To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, call 816-234-4347 or send email to jsilva@kcstar.com.

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