You might be realizing right about now that I love to write about seasonal produce. Part of that is due to me being a chef with a love for the freshest ingredients possible, but part of it is that in my neck of the woods, it’s tough to get good out-of-season produce in the grocery store. This forces seasonal eating habits, which, after a period of adjustment (I was used to the bounty found in gigantic supermarkets in New Jersey), I’ve come to really appreciate. And we are approaching the season for one of my favorite garden treats, rhubarb!
Does it make me sound old-fashioned when I say I love rhubarb? Well, I don’t rightly care. Before Sour Patch Kids and super sour Warhead candies were making kids (and, ahem, some adults) pucker up, rhubarb was the king of tart treats. And it is such a magical and wonderful occurrence that rhubarb is ready in the garden around the same time as strawberries are. These two are like Penn and Teller, like Frank and Dean-O, like Lady Gaga and Beyonce…yes, they are great on their own, but put them together and POW!
Here’s a good basic jumping off point for a strawberry-rhubarb compote. It may seem like a large quantity, but since rhubarb’s only around for a short while (at least in my local stores and farmers’ markets), I like to make a big batch and freeze it in smaller portions, so that I can enjoy a taste of summer on a cold snowy day (hopefully very many months away from now!).
What to serve with this, you might ask? Well, put it on oatmeal or pancakes or yogurt or shortcake, swirl it into a muffin or coffeecake recipe, puree it and try it with pork (omg it is so divine!)…there are a whole lot of options. It would work as a filling for the Winter Berry Tart I posted a while back, too. Any way you work it, this is a true taste of June.
5 stalks rhubarb, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Zest and juice of either one orange or one lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the rhubarb
3 cups strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and quartered (you could use the frozen equivalent, but if they’re in season, why would you??)
Combine in a heavy-bottomed pot the rhubarb, citrus, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, then turn down to low. When the rhubarb is soft and almost falling apart, taste it for sweetness, keeping in mind that the strawberries will contribute their flavor a little later on. Adjust sugar if necessary, and stir until dissolved. Place the berries in a metal or glass container that is capable of holding the whole recipe, then pour the rhubarb over the berries. Stir gently to heat the berries a little while still maintaining their shape and not mashing them too much. Enjoy!
How do you like to employ good ol’ Rhubarb?