The last time I purchased rhubarb there was a fellow shopper eagerly inquiring as to how I prepared my rhubarb. She explained how the crimson stalks had always left her feeling baffled. During my prior purchase I was met by another shopper who explained how rhubarb had always intimidated her. She wanted to know what I did with mine.
I just assumed everyone knew what to do with rhubarb. I thought I was the last to embrace the crimson stalks. Not so. So this post is for all of you rhubarb virgins.
I am on a mission to spread the simplicity of fine (and simple) rhubarb preparation far and wide.
I've been especially inspired by Tara's tribute to rhubarb on Tea & Cookies, Molly's recent rhubarb post on Orangette, and by Ruth, my next door neighbor in Point Reyes Station, who spoke of her rhubarb plant so lovingly.
Sweet cool cream on warm chunks of rhubarb and apple infused with Earl Grey tea, cardamom, and orange...mmm. This recipe came after experimenting with several variations on this theme. I've decreased and increased the sweetness. Dark brown sugar was substituted for white and then white for dark. Vanilla was added and then subtracted. I tried a version with star anise and one with juniper berries before settling on Earl Grey tea, cardamom, and orange zest. This is, without a doubt, my favorite so far.
It is good cold too. I just checked. It thickens as it cools and I prefer the cooled texture (and color), but I would not give up that first warm taste with the cool melting ice cream. No no no. This is a big batch, eat it both ways.
Rhubarb atop pancakes with powdered sugar and a bit of lemon zest is another delicious serving suggestion. I'm sure this recipe would also be wonderful beside some fresh ricotta, served over oatmeal with a bit of cream, topping a bowl of Greek yogurt, or with shortcake and lightly sweetened whipped cream. So many possibilities. Let me know how you decide to serve yours.
I will continue to experiment. I hope you will be experimenting too. Don't be shy, rhubarb is very forgiving (and oh-so-tasty). - chez danisse —Denise
Test Kitchen Notes
Rhubarb and Earl Grey are a natural pairing, and one best left relatively unadorned. Chez danisse tosses tart chunks of rhubarb with pieces of apple, a little sugar, a pinch of cardamom, some Meyer lemon juice and some orange zest before adding the tea and gently softening everything in a 350 degree oven. The fruit mellows and grows tender without falling apart, and it emerges from the oven swimming in a subtle, tea-infused broth, which thickens into a light syrup as it cools. If you want this less juicy, cut back to 1/2 cup tea -- we liked the subtlety of these proportions, especially with the vanilla ice cream, which is a must. - A&M —The Editors
6 fairly indulgent servings
roughly chopped (1-inch pieces) rhubarb, from about 6 long thin ribs (just under 1 lb)
roughly chopped (1-inch pieces) Braeburn apple, from 2 peeled apples
Juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
plus 2 tablespoons pure cane sugar
Seeds of one green cardamom pod crushed well with mortar and pestle
2 bags of Earl Grey tea steeped in 3/4 cup just-boiled water for 3 minutes and then cooled
Place chopped rhubarb and apple in a medium casserole dish or oven-safe pot.
Add remaining ingredients (retaining the zest of one orange and vanilla ice cream for later) and gently toss. I advise tasting one chunk of apple and one chunk of rhubarb at this stage. They will both be nicely sugar-coated and crisp.
Bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir (it will smell so good). Bake an additional 15 minutes. Fruit should be tender and kitchen should smell even better than it did the first time you opened the oven door.
And...that is it. You are done. Can you believe it's that easy?
I let this batch cool slightly (5-10 minutes), spooned some into a bowl, and topped it with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. I ate the rhubarb as the ice cream melted on top. Superb! My husband had fallen asleep at this point (my experimenting went a little late), but I woke him and gave him a bite. He liked it too. He even held his eyes open for a couple additional tastes. I went to sleep satisfied.