One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most since becoming more and more aware of foods, and especially the local food movement, is incredibly tasty seasonal foods. There’s nothing like biting into a ripe apple just picked off a tree, perfect plums from the local farmers market, fresh white asparagus, or sweet, bright-red strawberries. Right now we are in the middle of the strawberry season.
I was the kid who always loved strawberries – in any form. There’s an infamous story of me as a two-year-old conspiring with a buddy and eating all of the strawberries, with powdered sugar, that my parents had saved for dessert for their dinner guests. You can imagine the sticky, sugary mess!
However, this post is not dedicated to my favorite red fruit but in fact to one I’ve had a less-loving relationship with: rhubarb. These sweet-tart stalks, which are now in season, have fascinated me, both positively and negatively. I have in the past liked them – especially, and unsurprisingly, in strawberry-rhubarb pie. However, their tartness overpowers their sweetness too much for me in the traditional German Rhabarberkuchen, even with a generous helping of streusel on top. Since my mother liked to make this Kuchen, and it was more often than not the only way I had rhubarb, I didn’t really develop a taste for it.
Until this year. Perhaps it was the stalks that lay around the kitchen in Lafigère while I was there. Untouched but mysteriously beautiful and enticing with their green and red hues, their image in my memory lured me into buying some at the store yesterday when I was shopping for dinner. I double-checked the Herkunftsland (transl. country of origin), the closest I can get to knowing in the store that my veggies are coming from a German farm, and bought two stalks. I didn’t know what I’d do with them – I thought I’d try cooking them into a compote, but was nervous it would be too tart. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized I could throw in one of the Austrian Jonagold apples I’d just bought to alleviate some of the tartness and enhance the sweet flavors of the rhubarb. Stirring it into my cream of wheat this morning I marveled at how simple, and at the same time perfect, this compote is.
Of course, Luisa Weiss, the Wednesday Chef, concludes that after trying Rose Gray’s and Ruth Roger’s recipe for rhubarb: “I don’t know that I’ll ever cook rhubarb any other way again.” Perhaps I’ll have to try that recipe next!
2 stalks Rhubarb (ca. 2 ½ cups or 270g)
1 chopped Jonagold Apple (ca. 1 cup or 190g)
¼ cup (60g) Sugar
½ cup water (or as needed)
Peel the rhubarb well with a small paring knife (start at one end and peel the top layer down on all sides, repeat on other end if needed). Peel and core the apple. Chop the fruits into equal sizes and place in a saucepan with sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook (about 10 minutes) until soft. If you like, you can puree the compote with a whoosh-whoosh-thingy until desired consistency is achieved. Store in the refrigerator or increase the recipe and can in jars for wintertime. Makes about 2 cups.