Photo Credit: A. Kane
Initially, I thought rhubarb was one of those foods that always had a partner, like macaroni and cheese, or steak and potatoes. I always had it with berries in my grandma’s stellar strawberry-rhubarb pie. I loved that pie, and would wait for it all year. I didn’t really know what the rhubarb did; I just knew that it was delicious.
The pie was pleasantly tart, a luscious red color, and made my lips pucker. It wasn’t until years later that I thought to do anything else with a stalk of rhubarb except mix it with a pie—but I’m glad I did.
Rhubarb is actually a vegetable, and always reminds me of celery’s feminine cousin. But it does not have the watery taste of celery! Rhubarb is very tart, and tangy—some may even find it too sour for consumption when raw. But when it is stewed with sugar it is glorious! It falls apart, cooking into a soft, sweet gel. It will give any pie a little kick, or eaten as a compote it is a delight.
This recipe, for rhubarb compote couldn’t be any simpler. I like it mixed on top of yogurt as a sweetened morning treat, but it also works well as a dessert sauce over ice cream, angel food cake, or even cheesecake. The sugar allotment is dependent on personal taste—just a bit if you like the tart aspect, more if you don’t.
3 cups (4-5 stalks) rhubarb, cleaned and slice into half inch pieces
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
juice of half a lemon
¼ - ½ cup sugar.
Toss all of the ingredients together in a saucepan. Start with ¼ cup of sugar, more can always be added. Put the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb falls apart, and creates a syrup, about 10 minutes. Taste for sweetness and add up to another ¼ cup of sugar if desired.
Remove from heat, fish out, and discard vanilla bean, if using. Cool to room temperature. Compote keeps in refrigerator for up to one week.
Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog, nosheteria.com.