As the farmers' markets continue their spring time unveiling, you can now find rhubarb at many of the stands. Though rhubarb is often paired with strawberries and used in a variety of desserts (tortes, pastries, pies: yum!), it's actually a vegetable. Only the colorful stalks are edible; the leaves are full of oxalic acid.
Rhubarb is known for its sour taste and full flavor and range in color from pink to red to green. Their flavor is released by slowly cooking the stalks to release their sugar.
A few days ago, I picked up Deborah Madison's Seasonal Fruit Desserts. I have a feeling I'll be using her cookbook constantly this summer! Madison's recipes are simple and designed to showcase the fresh fruit in a variety of uncomplicated ways.
I chose to make one her rhubarb purees from the 20 or so stalks I picked up at Borough Hall Greenmarket.
The rhubarb simmers for 20 minutes, slowly breaking down into a rather stringy stew. The flavors emanating from the pot were the soothing kind--cinnamon, cloves, and oranges. Because I'm used to cooking with cloves in winter dishes and drinks such as mulled cider, the scent was a little disconcerting! The result, though, was both sweet and citric, topped with a dollop of homemade whipped cream!
Rhubarb Puree with Maple, Cinnamon, and Orange
Recipe Source: Seasonal Fruit Desserts
Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups
2 1/2 pounds of red rhubarb
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/3 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Trim the end of the rhubarb. Chop them into 1 inch chunks and put them in a large saucepan with the sugar, zest, juice, cinnamon, and cloves.
Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb has broken down into a chunky puree (about 20 minutes).
Chill well and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.