Our CSA Essex Farm delivered a big load of rhubarb this week, keeping us rooted firmly in the season. Our plan is to make up a big batch of basic cooked rhubarb (recipe below) that we can transform at a moment’s notice. The image of Rhubarb Whoopie Pies we found at Butter, Sugar, Flowers gives the basic approach: cooked rhubarb + whatever you want to pair it with. Here are 13 ideas to get you going:
—Serve warm or chilled with heavy cream (plain or whipped), ice cream or crème fraîche, and a cookie, for an instant dessert.
—Layer into a tall glass with vanilla or strawberry or vanilla ice cream for a rhubarb parfait.
—Eat with yogurt for a splendid breakfast with yogurt or fresh ricotta cheese.
—Slather on French toast or pancakes instead of or WITH maple syrup
—Use as a ready-made filling for rhubarb tarts; simply fill a pre-baked tart shell and serve with whipped cream.
—Sandwich dollops between a split cream biscuits with some whipped cream, for a rhubarb shortcake.
—Blend with strawberry ice cream and milk for a dazzling rhubarb milkshake
—Warm Rhubarb Cookie Pies/Freeform tartlets. Place a sheet pan of just baked Ethereal Butter Cookies in the center of the table (on a trivet or hot pad). Serve the hot cookies and top each (quickly) with rhubarb and whipped cream.
—Stir into to very softened premium vanilla ice cream —or homemade churning ice cream —for rhubarb ice cream.
—Use as a confit/sauce for savory foods (think applesauce), such as roasted pork, chicken, lamb, duck and game birds.
—Simmer in a heavy pan over low heat until it becomes a thick, old-fashioned rhubarb jam, great eaten the ways all jam is, or as a filling between layers of Brown Sugar Lightening Cake for a rhubarb layer cake.
Rhubarb jam is a surprising accompaniment to dried-cured hams, such as Serrano, prosciutto and duck hams; smoked chicken, turkey and duck; and aged sheep’s milk cheeses.
Method: Fast Essential Rhubarb for Improvising
Rhubarb marries well with all sorts of flavors. Consider split vanilla bean, cracked coriander seeds, cinnamon stick, ginger, a few cracked cardamom pods, a few drops of rosewater once the stew is cool… And you can always throw some strawberries in.
The cooked rhubarb will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge (if it lasts that long), and can be frozen in plastic containers.
Rinse and drain a large handful or two of rhubarb stalks.
>>2 pounds of rhubarb, will yield 8 to 10 cups, 3 to 4 cups cooked.
I like to use my trusty over-the-sink colander, which allows me to prep food without having to clear out the dishes in the sink. Note: rhubarb can range in color from red to sour apple green, which was how Essex’s was.
Cut off and discard the cut ends, then slice the stalks crosswise into 1 to 2-inch chunks.
Measure the fruit. Figure approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup sweetener such as honey, agave or sugar per 4 cups cut fruit. Honey will give a more fragrant syrup, but when I’m low on it I mix it with sugar or use all sugar, which gives a more acute rhubarb flavor.
Add the sweetener to a large shallow pan (I use All-Clad 7406 MC2 Master Chef 13.5″ 6-quart Saute Pan. Because it is wide and shallow, it allows rhubarb’s abundant juices to reduce and concentrate easily; it also holds A LOT, in this case about 12 cups of fruit.) Use a vegetable peeler to strip the zest from a Meyer lemon, or a few strips from a regular lemon and/or orange. Add it to the sweetener, along with a few tablespoons of water or white wine if you have some open.
Set the pan over high heat, and stir until dissolved and you have a thick, bubbly syrup.
Add the rhubarb and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally.
As it cooks, the rhubarb will release lots of juices, which will mix with the syrup, reducing as it cooks.
Cook until the rhubarb is a soft, thick stew with many tender chunks. Taste; add more sugar if too tart, lemon juice if too sweet. The zest will most likely have candied and can be left in to eat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Depending on its uncooked color, the cooked rhubarb will fade and mute.
Eat some right away while it is warm.
Transfer to a clean vessel, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve or improvise with.