Ah, spring. It means milder weather, budding daffodils, and farmers market hauls of asparagus, ramps, and our favorite sassy vegetable-that’s-legally-a-fruit, rhubarb. In the small sliver of time between April and June, rhubarb is a regular guest at the table—you see it in buckles, pies, upside-down cakes, compotes, sorbets, and even cocktails. There are some savory applications, too, in which rhubarb lends tart, bright notes to richer, meaty dishes, and gives springy tarts and salads some added flair.
But sweet or savory, rhubarb can often play second fiddle to bolder seasonal cousins like strawberries, or, worse yet, can get buried under a shedload of sugar to tame its much maligned sourness. This is a real shame, since rhubarb’s flavor is so clean and crisp on its own, its pleasant tang a perfect counterpoint to all manner of creamy and earthy backdrops. Stripped down, with its refreshing powers harnessed correctly, rhubarb is a true celebration of spring, and should be treated as simply as the most delicate pea tendril.
Jenny Tschiesche, a nutrition expert, educator, and founder of The Lunchbox Doctor, has the same, minimalist philosophy on preparing rhubarb as she does for cooking everything else: Simple is best. Her book, Sheet Pan Cooking, which came out last month, is geared towards creating no-fuss, nourishing meals, with maximal flavor and minimal ingredients and prep. And as the book’s title suggests, everything can be made on a sheet pan.
In Jenny’s mind, rhubarb needs little more than two additional ingredients and 30 minutes in the oven to come to life. It also can rely on some of nature’s best sweeteners—honey and orange juice—to bring it to its sweetest, most flavorful heights. After just a short time roasting in a 350 ̊F oven, the Orange-Baked Rhubarb come out with their inviting fuchsia hue still vibrant, flecked with bits of orange zest, and give off a sweet, honey-orange aroma. While their shape stays intact after roasting, their insides take on a luscious, pudding-like texture that can stand up to crunchy accents (like granola or crumbled gingersnaps) and creamy accompaniments (like plain Greek yogurt, coconut yogurt, or whipped cream) alike.
And as for rhubarb’s hallmark sharpness? Shop editor (and rhubarb enthusiast) Gerry Coletta remarked on the “good balance between sweet and tart” in this dish, noting that the strongest flavor was the rhubarb itself. Mission accomplished.
- 14 ounces (400 g) rhubarb, rinsed and cut into 2-in (5 cm) pieces
- ¼ cups orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 1½ tablespoons honey
What's your favorite way to savor rhubarb's clean, tart flavor? Share with us in the comments!