I’m taking a little time off to smell the flowers. This is a column from a couple of years ago.
It’s time to put the wool away and focus on spring and all the felicity therein. The towhees are performing an operetta in the front yard. The bluebirds are setting up housekeeping in the nesting box out back. Our daffodils are bobbing in the breeze, and now, in the evening, though still cool, we have enough sunshine for a quick Rhubarb Spritzer on the back porch as we watch the sun go down. The mosquitoes haven’t yet taken up residence, so quick, get outside and enjoy the coolth.
Plan ahead for the weekend:
Make some rhubarb juice
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 pound rhubarb, chopped
4 basil leaves, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water, sugar, rhubarb to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the rhubarb is tender, about 10 minutes. Push through a fine-mesh sieve. Let cool. Fill 4 small glasses halfway with ice. Pour into each glass a scant 1/4 cup rhubarb juice, then top with Prosecco or sparkling wine, or if you insist, soda water to taste. Garnish with a basil leaf.
Growing up we had a couple of rhubarb plants growing in the lower garden, near the compost pile by the barn/garage. We never ate the rhubarb. My mother was never going to serve Rhubarb Spritzers, so I think it they were plants she inherited from the original owners of the house. Like the Jack-in-the-Pulpit by the back steps and the bank of Lilies of the Valley on the west side of the stone wall. I have to use store-bought (or farmers’ market-bought) rhubarb, and that’s a good thing.
Every spring there are cascades of recipes for rhubarb and strawberry pies, cakes, jams, lemon bars, tarts, crumbles and fools. Which are all wonderful and delicious, but this year I want to try a couple of new recipes; where rhubarb isn’t the main novelty or ingredient, but is a subtle and unusual taste.
I am related to a couple of people who are always looking for the next best ribs recipe, and I think this might scratch their itch, for this weekend, at least: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rhubarbecue/
And here is one that will make an excellent Sunday night supper: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/roast-chicken-with-rhubarb-butter-and-asparagus-56389535
Try this for something light in the middle of the week, when you want to stay out in the garden a little bit longer and plant those daylilies, or when you cannot stand another minute in the kitchen: https://carolcookskeller.blogspot.com/2007/05/salad-du-printemps-rhubarb-confit-with.html
And any of these meals can only be enhanced if you give in to the springtime celebration of sweet and sour rhubarb desserts. An Eton Mess is always bliss, but it becomes more than a childhood treat when rhubarb and lemon basil are added to the lush whipped cream and the airy and crisp meringue. Or maybe you should reconsider dinner, and just have some Eton Mess with those Rhubarb Spritzers. Yum. https://food52.com/recipes/22388-eton-mess-with-rhubarb-gin-jam-and-lemon-basil-meringue
Roasting the rhubarb elevates the humble, lower garden vegetable considerably. This shortcake will be scarfed down by your rib lovers, too: https://food52.com/recipes/76923-slab-shortcake-with-roasted-rhubarb
And something easy to make, and keep in the fridge to give you another little taste of spring even when the mosquitoes are back, and the frantic moths are circling the the back light: rhubarb jam. There is a link in this recipe for a PDF for printing jam jar labels: https://cookienameddesire.com/rhubarb-jam-recipe/
Please remember if you are eating home-grown rhubarb DO NOT eat the leaves – very sick-making.
“I want a dish to taste good, rather than to have been seethed in pig’s milk and served wrapped in a rhubarb leaf with grated thistle root.”