Rhubarb with caramelized onions? Rhubarb salsa? Rhubarb and lentil potage? I can hear you now, the ornery ones of you that is: What the hell, woman…rhubarb’s for pie. Crisps. Crunches.
For April’s Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 event, I decided to explore the savory side of rhubarb, since there’s a ton of it growing about 50 feet from my front door. As rhubarb is technically a vegetable/herb, why not try some recipes that utilize rhubarb as a vegetable?
Hey, salsa has a tangy bite. I bet rhubarb could work in salsa. So I tracked down a viable candidate in The Joy of Rhubarb: The Versatile Summer Delight. It’s a classic Mexican salsa, with fresh cilantro, green onion (which made me happy; I can’t stand regular onions raw), lime juice, jalapeño for a bit of bite, barely-blanched rhubarb, and lots of sweet peppers and more sugar than salsa normally would have, to counteract the rhubarb’s bite.
Dad’s verdict? “It would be great on hamburgers. By the way, we’re having hamburgers tonight….” Subtle hint there, Dad. Yeah, he went home with some rhubarb salsa. Linda thought it had a bit of a bitter rhubarb taste to it and suggested more sweetener. I loved it. Fresh, crisp, clean salsa taste with the rhubarb adding uniqueness without overpowering it.
Overall verdict for rhubarb salsa: Two snaps up.
Jump to the rhubarb salsa recipe now or continue reading.
I swear, this was some fancy-pants shit I made. Asparagus with balsamic-rhubarb reduction (recipe here). It was dead easy, too. You cook down some balsamic vinegar and chopped rhubarb — along with a good little heap of sugar — until most of the liquid has evaporated and you get a thickish sauce. In this preparation, it’s served with roasted asparagus. You could really impress some guests with this stuff.
Dad’s verdict: Tasty, but the roasted asparagus was too soft. He grabbed a stalk of raw asparagus from the 10-pound bag I’d just picked and dipped that in the reduction instead. Linda’s verdict: “Too strong for asparagus. Would be really good with pork or something.” I liked the contrast between the tangy, balsamic-flavored reduction and the mild roasted asparagus, but I see her point. Comme-ci, comme ça.
Overall verdict for rhubarb-balsamic reduction: Two snaps sideways.
lentil and rhubarb potage
The original title of this Mark Bittman recipe is “Lentil and rhubarb stew with Indian spices,” but it’s too thick for a stew. So I did some Google-fu and discovered it was more of a potage, which also sounds fancier.
And man, it may be one ugly mofo of a dish, but damn, lentil and rhubarb potage is tasty. I was shocked. It had no added sugar. I was certain it would be inedible. But I had to try it, because it has cardamom in it, which is my new favorite spice ever.
Linda’s verdict: Really good and interesting. Nice balance of complex flavors. I’m transling from “Mmm” here, by the way.
Overall verdict for rhubarb and lentil potage: Two snaps up.
caramelized onion and rhubarb compote on herbed yogurt cheese
Hey Aunt Geri, I finally broke in the yogurt cheese maker! And all was good. This recipe, heavily adapted from one for caramelized onion, beet, and rhubarb compote, made me nervous. For one, it was another fancy-pants recipe. For another, I was adapting the living hell out of it. I’m not good at that sort of thing. Usually my adaptations tend to turn out more like the rhubarb mistake below. And for yet another thing, I was winging the whole herbed yogurt cheese thing. Entirely.
If you want to adapt the recipe like I did, simply make it without the beet purée, and add more maple syrup when you add the rhubarb, about 2 tablespoons worth. Trust me, you’ll need it. For the herbed cheese the easy way, go with a slightly sweet prepared cheese spread like Aloutte…because that was what I was shooting for. I put them in baked wonton cups, but they’d be better on small squares of puff pastry.
Dad’s verdict: “I really like the cheese and compote filling, but those wontons are like chewing on glass.” Linda’s verdict: “I love that filling!” Me? Shocked. And happy it worked. :p Cue the Smiths.
Overall verdict for caramelized onion and rhubarb compote: Two snaps way up.
Since I had Mexican, Indian, and vaguely Italian (in the form of the caramelized onion and rhubarb compote), I decided to try incorporating rhubarb into a Thai curry. I’m not even going to link to the recipe I worked from, because the experiment was an utter disaster, and I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, so I don’t want to impugn the blogger who posted it.
Suffice it to say: disaster. Coconut milk wasn’t enough sweetness to balance rhubarb’s astringency, the rhubarb became gloopy, and it tasted awful. Oh well.
The experience did cement my dedication to you, the reader: You will never be subjected to a recipe I don’t absolutely love. I want everything you try to be something well-tested and well-liked before it ever hits this page.
Overall verdict for rhubarb mistake: Two snaps way down. Let’s forget all about it and move on to the rhubarb salsa recipe.
Adapted from The Joy of Rhubarb: The Versatile Summer Delight by Theresa Millang.
2 cups finely diced fresh rhubarb
½ cup sweet red pepper, chopped
½ cup sweet yellow pepper, chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, tops only, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Blanch rhubarb in a saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds. Seriously. Ten seconds. No more. Remove rhubarb promptly from heat, dump into a strainer, and rinse under cold water until rhubarb is lukewarm or cool. This is to stop the blanching process.
Place rhubarb in a glass bowl. Add remaining ingredients, and mix well. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving to allow flavors to develop.