Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crimson Stalks

In the Pot, 2010

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 Rhubarb
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?
I 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.

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...


  1. We grew up eating rhubard in England, My Mum (still) and my grandpa grew it. At this time of year we had pies and tarts and fools and trifle but mostly stewed rhubard (often with stem ginger) with custard or thick cream. I like it very very much. Occasionally I can find imported Rhubard here in Rome but it's not the same, I miss it. Lovely post, your ideas and thoughts about this curious pink fruit are all bookmarked until I am back in the uk during Rhubard season

  2. yum. your idea for earl grey tea sounds delicious.

    thanks so much for your note about my uncle last week. xo.

  3. Rhubarb -bbbb- my spelling, I mean really, I was clearly so excited to write.

  4. the original and all of your variations sound wonderful!

    We had a rhubarb plant in our yard when I was growing up. I absolutely loved cabbage patch kids, so my mom would cut stalks with the big leaves still attached, I'd put it down the back of my shirt, and we'd take silly pictures of me as a cabbage patch kid :) thanks for reminding me of this memory I hadn't thought of in years...

  5. it's odd that i've never had it. it sounds good though

  6. oh, i love rhubarb! and your photo looks wonderful.

    i've been thinking about trying it with orange, brown sugar and cinammon or vanilla. and semolina pudding...

  7. I love your photo, so vibrant. I think I am going to need to pick up some rhubarb later. I can almost taste this and it is making me hungry.

  8. What a wonderfully written post Denise. My hubby goes "ape" for rhubarb, especially with apple. He doesn't however share my enthusiasm for my topping of beaten ricotta, cream, honey and orange zest. Just pass the cream and "she'll be right mate".

  9. This is such an exciting recipe. I hope to incorporate rhubard more often now. Very inspiring.

  10. Oh yum, yum, yum! I will definitely try this recipe, thank you! I grew up in Vermont, and our yard was filled with rhubarb plants... I would eat stalk after stalk, raw, dipped in sugar :)

  11. I think I'm sold on the tart version with the berries and lemon zest. I've only tried rhubarb (I love the name) once - and didn't love it. But I think trying the recipe from a friend like you will make all the difference. :)


  12. Oh this sounds absolutely lovely!
    Thakns for demystifying rhubabarb :)
    Happy Monday to you.

  13. Rachel, Oh, I bet you and your mum have some superb rhubarb recipes up your sleeves! Ginger--of course. Ginger will be in my next batch.

    Erin (reading my tea leaves), Oh yes, the Earl Grey. Hmmm...will it be Earl Grey or ginger next. What to do. I've been thinking of you and your family. I hope you are all getting through this sad time as well as possible.

    Jen, That is hilarious! I'm cracking up over here.

    Char, Not so odd. I think there are a lot of people who haven't tried rhubarb. I'd only had it in pie up until last year. Now it seems I can't get enough. I just finished the batch I made yesterday.

    kristina, Rhubarb with semolina pudding...yum! Do you have a recipe for semolina pudding? I'd love to make some.

    Erin, You should definitely pick up some rhubarb. Enjoy!

    Mariana, Your topping looks good to me. Send your husband's portion my way!

    alexandria, I hope you enjoy your rhubarb.

    Tumbleweed Woman, I've heard about kids eating rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar. I think I'll have to try this myself.

    Maria, Oh...I hope you like tart. Maybe you should add just a little bit more sugar. I want your next experience to be a good one.

    Abby, I hope you find yourself some rhubarb and end up loving it as much as I do.

  14. oh this looks yum... and the tea will be wonderful as well.
    ps: i have a rhubarb bush in my backyard. : )

  15. I bought rhubarb for the first time a few weeks ago and tried to create a cobbler-like dish without using a recipe. Ahem, less than desirable results.
    I don't know why - every so often, I think I can do it solo and that my culinary muse will direct me to the path of delicious flavors. But instead, no -instinctive baking always seems to yield disaster for me.
    I could taste the promise of rhubarb though, and I promise the next time I cook it, I will use your recipe! :)

  16. Rhubarb, rhubarb... I have such a weakness for it.

  17. Thank you for making my mouth water. I'm going to try and plant rhubarb this year. We always had it in our garden when I was growing up....

  18. rhubarb reminds me of summer. Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    Your rhubarb photo is beautiful.

  19. I LOVE rhubarb so so so so much. Seriously I was salivating reading your recipes ;) Like Rachel we grew up on it - stewed solo. My Granny used to serve it with porridge from breakfast, and it was especially good with just soft vanilla ice cream and a wee sprinkle of raw sugar. I think tonight I will make rhubarb crumble for dinner (oops I mean pudding of course!). Take care Annie. ps: how odd that each time you buy rhubarb you're approached for cooking advice....

  20. delightful - and dipped in sugar sounds so good too - I'll have to see if they have some at my farmer's market. This must be the season for it?

  21. Rhubarb is really becoming much more embraced here in Nashville--and more of my friends are having great success growing it. I use it when I teach cooking camp--my kids call it "red celery--until they tasted it! Love its puckery tartness--and your recipe with juniper berries sounds so intriguing--

  22. great ideas. i am looking forward to experimenting once the rhubarb arrives to the local shops.

  23. Christina, In your backyard? I'm incredibly jealous!

    Ann (Things That Can Fly), If you try again, use my latest post (Here I sit.). It's my favorite recipe so far. Do not forget the vanilla ice cream!

    gracia, Me too!

    mosey, I'd really love to have some in my garden, but I guess I'll need to procure a garden first. Sigh...

    life in yonder, Thank you!

    Annie (Elsa May), Vanilla ice cream--yes! You are so right. I just tried my new recipe with vanilla ice cream and it was incredibly good. No one approached with rhubarb questions during my last trip to the market. Hopefully everyone is well informed now : )

    Krystyna (Pen and Paperie), Rhubarb is in season here in California, but I don't have any idea how or when (or if) rhubarb grows in Florida. I hope you are able to find some.

    Nancy, Yes, that is exactly what it looks like, red celery. It seems like it would be a fun food to introduce to young students.

    Shari, Thanks. I've had a lot of fun. I'd love to know what you come up with during your experimenting.