The last time I purchased rhubarb there was a fellow shopper eagerly inquiring as to how I prepared my rhubarb. She explained how the 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 post on Orangette, and by Ruth, my former next door neighbor in Point Reyes Station, who spoke of her rhubarb plant so lovingly.
I'm infinitely pleased with my results so far and will continue to experiment. I hope you will be experimenting too. Don't be shy, rhubarb is very forgiving (and oh-so-tasty).
Star Anise RhubarbI tasted this rhubarb warm and spooned straight from the pot--it was exquisite. I chilled the rest and served some over cottage cheese and, yum. I'm sure it 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.
4 humble servings
1 1/2 cups (three long thin ribs/just under 1/2 lb) rhubarb roughly chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cups (one peeled, seeded, and cored) apple roughly chopped into 1" pieces
Juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
Add enough water to lemon juice to = 1/2 cup liquid
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean split
1 whole star anise pod
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place rhubarb and apple in a small casserole dish or oven-safe pot.
Add remaining ingredients and gently toss.
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?
Although I found my Star Anise Rhubarb to be quite delicious, I decided to create another version with a few changes. I wanted to decrease the sweetness and fairly strong taste of vanilla, so I doubled the quantity of rhubarb and subtracted the vanilla bean. While I was at it, I decided to replace the star anise with a few juniper berries (3, gently smashed). Dark brown sugar was substituted for white. Everything else remained the same. Let's call this version Rhubarb with Juniper Berries. So far, I've tasted this batch warm and spooned straight from the pot (of course) and over pancakes. I sprinkled the rhubarb topped pancakes with powdered sugar and a bit of lemon zest. Chris and I like tart, so we thoroughly enjoyed the Rhubarb with Juniper Berries. If you aren't a lover of the pucker, you might want to stick with the Star Anise Rhubarb recipe. The flavor imparted by both the star anise and the juniper berries was very subtle. I might try using a little bit more next time.
I'd also like to create a recipe replacing the lemon and water with Earl Grey Tea and adding a little orange zest, but that is for another day...