A box of wild rhubarb from my long time friend and sometimes co-author, Susanna Hoffman, prompted a cooking rendezvous with the tart, succulent vegetable cum fruit. On her Colorado Rocky Mountain property, she has six large patches of the odd chenopodium, whose far flung relatives include
amaranth, spinach, epazote, and quinoa. Each May and June, like a gardener facing too many zucchini to cook or share in midsummer, she has to decide: what to do? So, I received some–a lot–via priority mail. Not having any rhubarb patches of my own, I was delighted to set about thinking up ways to cook the treasure.
Looking around, in almost every corner of world, I found suitable companions and myriad ways to cook rhubarb: pie, chutney, sauce, with additions such as rosewater, clove, thyme, onion, strawberries, vinegar, mustard seed, ginger, currants, and that’s the short list. Whether the dish is sweet or savory, sugar is a wanted ingredient because rhubarb’s stalks are undeniably sour.
As it happened, when the box arrived, I had been planning to grill a sumptuous pork shoulder roast for a food-loving group of friends and family and needed a fruity, vivacious condiment to go alongside it. Serendipity. The rhubarb was perfect! I concocted a somewhat Indian, somewhat Italian, and certainly American compote. As well as pork, it can complement poultry, game, lamb, or sausages. See the next post for a sweet, frozen treatment of rhubarb.
Makes about 1 ½ cups
½ pound trimmed rhubarb, in ½-inch pieces (2 cups)
1 cup thinly sliced yellow or white onion
1 tablespoon currants
1 tablespoon coarsely grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon rosewater
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup water
1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to mix. Partially cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook until thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes. Let cool and serve right away. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.