Oh, rhubarb. Poor, misunderstood rhubarb. Food that ranks right up there with butterscotch under “Things Grandparents Like.”
What is it but that weird fruit (vegetable?) that your mom, neighbor, mailman always has too much of. That leafy thing that looks like celery, but not quite, and only ever tastes good buried under pounds of strawberries inside a pie crust.
Sad, sad, rhubarb.
Hey, wait a minute! This is the year of using what we have. No, this is the year of LOVING what we have! And we have rhubarb, therefore we LOVE rhubarb! I entered this rhubarb season bound and determined to go stalks out on this year’s crop, and I have! I no longer fear the roob (nor do I avoid it out of sheer lack of understanding) and I’m here to tell you that you too can use it and totally enjoy it!
In response to the many, many of those who have said to me, “Well, I’d take some but I don’t know what to doooo with it,” I give you:
Easy Cooked Rhubarb!
- Don’t be put off by the celery-ness of it. Cooking rhubarb is easy. First, check your stalks to see if they are dry or rubbery. (If so, your rhubarb might be past its prime. Compost it and go back to your neighbor’s house for more.)
- If there are any leaves attached, discard them. All of them. They’re high in oxalic acid which is poisonous in large doses, and they could make you sick. (But you can compost them, so do that.)
- Clean your stalks and trim off any icky parts or blemishes. Chop them in 1″ pieces so that you won’t have any long fibers in your compote.
- Put 4 cups of rhubarb, give or take, in a saucepan along with a tablespoon or two of water and 1/2 cup raw organic sugar, give or take. (See how much of a recipe gal I am?)
- Seriously. This is hard to screw up. Rhubarb is tart, so if you like sweet, add more sugar.
- Cook it down over low to medium heat, stirring a lot.
- It will eventually turn into a pile of brown mush. That’s how you’ll know it’s done.
Now, what to do with your compote? There are hundreds of rhubarb recipes out there, of course, but I’m all about the easy right now. There’s no need to complicate things, so here are some of the ways we’re making sure this year’s patch saves us some serious time and money (and not one of them involves a pie.)
1. First, you can press out the liquid and add it to seltzer. It makes a lovely summer spritzer and you will feel fancy drinking it if you put it in a pretty glass.
2. Then, put the compote on top of your oatmeal.
3. Use it to top vanilla bean ice cream.
4. Layer it into a parfait with pound cake, whipped cream, and crushed pineapple.
5. Spread it on toast. A lot of it. As much as the toast can hold.
6. Turn your short stack into a better-for-you breakfast by topping whole-grain pancakes with rhubarb compote, any other fruit you may have, and a dollop of whipped cream or yogurt. (Note: this photo contains strawberries, too.)
7. Here’s a fun one: halve a ruby red grapefruit, dip the top in coarse raw sugar, then broil until caramelized. NOW, top with rhubarb.
8. Blend it into a smoothie with fresh strawberries and peaches.
9. Spoon it over pork medallions or grilled chicken.
10. Top grilled tuna or smother your salmon steaks.
And those ten suggestions barely scratch the surface of what you can do with your rhubarb if you really put your mind to it. AND, in addition to desserts and other dishes, rhubarb also has a long history of use as a medicinal plant. Rumor has it, it can also be used to dye your hair, keep leaf-eating garden pests away, shine up your burnt pots and pans, and ward off discoloration of your apples and other fruit (much like lemon juice.) I have yet to try all these other uses for rhubarb, but I’ll be sure to let you know when I do.
How about you? Do you know of any other uses for rhubarb? Do you even like rhubarb? Do tell!