STRAWBERRY/RHUBARB COMPOTE: A Fleeting Springtime Treat
“We experience happiness as a series of pleasing moments. They come and go like clouds, unpredictable, fleeting, and without responsibility to our desires.” --Tara Stiles
Yay--it’s rhubarb season!! One of my favorite springtime treats, a rosy-red, sweet-tart strawberry/rhubarb compote is a lovely, albeit fleeting, pleasure. Fleeting because rhubarb is only in season for a few weeks, if you can even find a grocery store that carries it. But it’s a treat worth searching out.
In case you aren’t familiar with rhubarb, look in the produce section for the veggie that masquerades as vibrant red celery, but is sold in individual stalks. Like celery, you eat the stalks, which are often dark red at the bottom and lighter pink or greenish near the top. Raw rhubarb, while edible, is really sour. But sweetened and cooked, especially with another fruit (I really love it with strawberries), it hits that perfect balance of sweet and tart. (Chef’s kiss.)
Cooking rhubarb couldn’t be easier. It can be roasted, pickled, poached; or baked into a pie or muffins. You can make a syrup to use in drinks. But my favorite way to cook rhubarb is so simple: stewed with strawberries to make a compote. I use the compote over pancakes, waffles, toast, ice cream; over angel food, pound or polenta cake; it’s delicious stirred into oatmeal, yougurt, mascarpone or cream cheese, or even just served chilled in a bowl paired with a chocolate cookie.
Cooking Time: About 15 minutes
1 lb fresh rhubarb stalks
1 lb organic strawberries
¼ to ½ cup granulated sugar (or other sweetener)
¼ cup water
Start by washing and trimming the rhubarb stalks, discarding any soft or yucky parts, leaves (which are toxic), and any really green parts. (The green won’t hurt you, but it’s the tartest part of the stalk.). Slice the rhubarb into half-inch pieces and toss into a large saucepan.
Next, wash and hull the strawberries, then cut them into quarters or smaller, if they’re really large. Toss them in with the rhubarb. Now stir in ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water. Note: this may not seem like enough liquid, but the sugar will macerate (break down and soften) the fruit, releasing the juices as it cooks.
Cover the saucepan with a lid, and heat the ingredients slowly, on medium low. Stir frequently, taking care not to scorch the fruit. Cook until the rhubarb is completely dissolved, and the strawberries are soft.
At this point I always taste a spoonful of the compote. I’m looking for the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and that balance is different for everyone. If you find the sauce too tart, you can incrementally add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. If it’s too thick, stir in an additional tablespoon or two of water.
And with that, you’re all set to enjoy one of spring’s fleeting pleasures: rhubarb!
-Strawberry/Rhubarb Compote can be served either warm or cold. And it freezes beautifully.
-Lots of flavors go well with rhubarb: berries (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry), orange, apple, stone fruits (peach, plum, nectarine, apricot), cinnamon, ginger, mint, thyme, rosemary, honey, and black pepper. I haven't tried basil, but it goes so well with strawberry, I'm going to add that to my next batch of rhubarb. Feel free to experiment!