Rhubarb (non-dessert)

rhubarbWe’re all used to seeing rhubarb paired with strawberries and/or sugar to make desserts — if all you search for is “rhubarb recipes”, the top hits are ALL tarts, pies, and crumbles. We’re going to see a lot of it over the next couple months, and we’d be some portly farm supporters if it all went into sweets. I’d like to offer a couple dinner table ideas we can use to keep the supplies in check. The tartness lends itself to strong flavors like meats that go well with sweet and sour sauces.  I’ve posted in the past on a curry made with lentils and Indian spices.  And there are lots of chutney recipes that include rhubarb, and they store well in the fridge once prepared.  If they’re sweeter, they’re great on ice cream or yogurt.  If they’re spicier, they’re good on meat or mixed with cream cheese to put on crackers.  There’s such a big variety, I’ll leave it up to you and google to find those recipes.  In the meantime, here are three very straightforward and tasty ways to use the funky red celery-looking veg this week.

Rhubarb as a roasting bed
2-3 cups chopped rhubarb (tough veins removed first)
3 T of sugar
Pork chops or bone in chicken parts
salt and pepper to taste

Turn the oven to 350. Toss rhubarb chunks with sugar. It only takes about 20 minutes for the rhubarb to roast up to softness with the meat, so cook the meat until about 20 minutes to doneness before adding in the rhubarb. Really thin chops would only take about 20 minutes, so it could all go in together. Big old chicken breasts would want longer, so they could go in alone for a while before adding the rhubarb. The rhubarb goes on the bottom of the dish, with the meat on top. These flavors are good as is, but you could get adventurous by using orange juice concentrate instead of the sugar, or add a little cinnamon and anise. Serve meat with rhubarb as a topping.

Rhubarb as a salad addition
2-3 cups of chopped rhubarb (tough veins removed)
2 T sugar

Toss rhubarb with sugar and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 until just beginning to soften (5-10 minutes, depending on size of chunks). Remove and cool.
These roasted pieces can now be added to salads at will. They’ll pair best with the stronger greens we get, such as endive, cress, and arugula, but lettuce works just fine. Add things with lots of flavor to change it up — roasted beats, orange slices, slivered toasted nuts, feta / myzithra / cotija cheese, raisins / dates / dried apricots, fresh strawberries.

Rhubarb simple syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (or more if you find this too tart)
3 cups chopped rhubarb

Combine all above in saucepan and simmer covered about 20 minutes. Stir regularly or it will burn. Strain with as fine a sieve as you have, store in the fridge. Mix a couple tablespoons with carbonated water for a tart summer refresher, or jazz up your favorite cocktails.

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