When my family used to travel, my mother would always pack a cooler of road snacks. It contained all the usual suspects you’d expect from a lady who once gave her child a yogurt-filled Easter basket. Baby carrots. Grapes. Nutri·Grain bars. And some sort of homemade loaf or muffin, if we were lucky.
On these trips, I got the sense that the kids in other vans were having way more fun, feeding each other Bubble Tape and licking their barbeque chip-flavored fingers. But now I am very thankful for my mother—queen of quick breads—and her health habits. And today I have this rhubarb yogurt loaf, a recipe from the mom files. One of my favorites.
I packed some for the car ride up to Montreal, for Dave’s birthday a few weeks ago. And I am barely exaggerating when I say it was the only non-animal thing we had while we were up there. Ever had a meat hangover? Not pretty. By day five I was picking the pepperoni off my pizza and fighting a case of reflux no amount of Tums could right.
But I had asked for it. We took on Canadian eating as a sport. Our trip was marked by the best food and drink I've had in a very, very long time.
There were Aperol spritzers in a small, candlelit scotch den called Big in Japan. Curried ribs at the Liverpool House, a seaside cottage meets old-timey club car establishment and sister restaurant to Joe Beef. And a comforting bowl of celery root baked eggs with a side of chewy, butter-laced sourdough at Lawrence for brunch.
And a refreshing plate of seasonal vegetables (!) showcasing sea beans and the very last bottle of Tokaji Furmint Sec at Pullman bar à vin. Christmas dinner of stuffed pig foot with foie gras and roast guinea hen atop cheese curd potatoes at Au Pied de Cochon. A place known for all things excess. Plus their sugar pie.
And chèvre from Jac le Chevrier and spicy pork sausage sliced with a pocket knife, eaten standing up Atwater market. Hot sesame bagels out of the wood-fired oven at St-Viateur, schmeared with cream cheese and salmon. A few bites of Dave’s smoked meat sandwich with yellow mustard at Schwartz’s plus a big, thick pickle on small white plate. (By this time I was getting pretty full.)
We finished with too many glasses of wine at Bocata with Malcolm, our personal wine guide thanks to a slow Monday night in Old Montreal. Plus fried sea smelts with aioli and a haunting, simple appetizer of toasted bread topped with tomato and Iberico sliced at the bar. (Let’s not mention the blueberry pastry from Olive + Gourmando for the ride home.)
It wasn’t until we were en route back to Boston with a cooler filled with foie gras, a hundred dollars worth of Canadian cheese, some sausage, and a few cases of Heady Topper from Vermont that I realized my mother’s habits had gone awry.
Luckily, I still have her rhubarb bread recipe. Which I've eaten for breakfast on a few occasions since I’ve been back. It’s nutty and chewy, with a slight tang from the lemon peel and rhubarb that stud it. Cutting it into thick morning time slices feels nourishing, without being overly virtuous. A perfect compliment for the diet of sea creatures and plant-based edibles I’ve put myself on since I’ve been back.
Lest we not forget, rhubarb is actually a vegetable.
Rhubarb Yogurt Bread
Adapted from mom
1¾ cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tbsp
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coriander seeds, ground
1½ cups muscovado sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
Grease two loaf pans (I used a 7 x 3½ and 10 x 3½). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift 1¾ cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and ground coriander into a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar, egg, and oil until thoroughly combined (a minute or so). Add in the yogurt, vanilla, and zest and mix until fully incorporated. While the mixer is running, slowly add in the flour mixture and then turn off the mixer (it’s okay if you can still see bits flour).
In a small bowl, toss the rhubarb pieces with the remaining 2 tbsp flour. With a rubber spatula, mix in the rhubarb until fully incorporated and the flour is no longer visible, but take care not to over mix.
Pour into your greased pans and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaves. Let cool on a wire rack.
Makes “1 large loaf and 1 small loaf” per my mother
-I am fairly confident this bread can take even more rhubarb, if you have it. The rhubarb melts into the bread and doesn’t overpower.
-I used dark muscovado sugar because I had it hanging around, though I do think I’d prefer light in this recipe. The difference is minor—just a slightly darker color and hint of molasses. (The original calls for light brown sugar.)
-Mom is also a wee bit more health-conscious than her dietitian daughter, apparently. She uses low fat yogurt and more whole wheat than white flour. The lemon peel and coriander were my additions. Because I can never leave well enough alone.