Raring for rhubarb: 10 ways to stalk the spring treat

Raring for rhubarb: 10 ways to stalk the spring treat

Rhubarb, that ruby-stalked rhizome that adds a tantalizing tartness to dishes both sweet and savory, is among the handful of spring produce that, just like the blossoming flowers and trees, seem to vanish in the blink of an eye. That’s why we’re practicing scorpacciata, or the act of consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it’s in season. Here’s how to have a moveable rhubarb feast that begins at home and then continues out on the town.

Fossett’s Bar (right) at Keswick works its own garden’s rhubarb into happy hour with a springtime take on a Collins cocktail. Rhubarb simple syrup gets shaken up with Plymouth gin and lemon juice, poured over ice, then topped with club soda, a bitters-soaked orange wedge, and brandied cherries.You’ll want to line your stomach, so slather strawberry-rhubarb jam from Jam According to Daniel on your morning toast or lunchtime PB&J.

At the Ivy Inn, pan-seared duck foie gras gets perched atop a crumpet sautéed in foie gras fat then sits among pretty piles of rhubarb “agro-dolce,” rhubarb coulis, strawberry jam, and an almond sablée crumble.

Instead of the usual squeeze of lemon, the sweet tea at l’etoile gets its pucker from rhubarb that’s steeped in water for an hour before the drink is garnished with mint.

Brookville Restaurant gives pork belly the spring treatment by slow-roasting it and serving it with a sweet, sour, and savory purée of rhubarb and braised spring onions.
At Mas Tapas, rhubarb joins its most familiar companion in a tart made with local strawberries and a crust that owes its tenderness to lard.

STALKING THE RHUBARBFar from tasty in its raw state (unless dipped in sugar as kids do in the U.K.), rhubarb requires a bit of prep to render it delectable. Cut washed stalks into 1” pieces, cover them with water, and boil them until soft, adding 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar for each pound of rhubarb. Add cinnamon or nutmeg to warm the flavors, or a squeeze of lemon to ramp up the acidity. With such high water content, the stalks can also simmer slowly in their own juices until soft. 

Sugar, spice and everything nice
The Virginia Chutney Co. combines rhubarb with brown sugar, vinegar, raisins, jalapeño peppers, ginger, mustard seed, paprika in a chutney that jazzes up everything from salmon to cheese. Find jars at Feast!, Foods of All Nations, Great Harvest Bread Co., Greenwood Gourmet, Market Street Wineshop, Rebecca’s, and Whole Foods.

Although rhubarb’s up earlier in the spring than strawberries, the two are happy bedfellows in pies, tarts, crumbles, and jams all the nation over. This year, spring sprung early and the strawberries at Chiles and Critzer’s are already ripe for the pickin’, so strawberry-rhubarb pie’s ready for the makin’.

Don’t eat leaves, just shoots!
Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous substances—including oxalic acid—but one would have to consume 11 pounds of them to reach a lethal dose. For those needing to get, er, moving, the roots have been used as a laxative in traditional Chinese medicine for 5,000 years.