Rhubarb. Rhubarb. Rhubarb.
Rhubarb has been around in my life, like forever... Seriously. Since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. The irritating (but cute) little bug-child that was always underfoot. Back when being a know-it-all was still considered more "precocious" than annoying.
I always knew that at certain times of the year (long before I understood the whole "seasonal" thing...), there would be a pot of these long greeny-pinky things stewing. I knew that this made my mouth pucker - it looked like celery but it sure didn't taste like celery.
It grew in two patches behind the garage/ barn. And had huge green leaves. And it got MOWED AROUND - not over. (That's how I knew it was special...)
Dad would cut it up into pieces. And put it into a pot with lots of sugar and cook it. And we would eat it. Out of a bowl (I always made sure I kept sugar nearby so I could add extra). Everyone went crazy for it. (Except for a few people who claimed not to like it - which I SOOOOO didn't get... Yes, I had freakish taste buds even back then.) If we were lucky - a strawberry rhubarb pie would show up sometime thereafter...
And then it would go away. And not show up for a long time. And I would forget about this strange food that only seemed to show up in that spot behind the garage. (I never saw it in the store).
At some point in time, I finally placed a name to this mysterious food. As I grew older, this "odd" concoction left the perimiter of my radar. I suppose in the back of my mind, I knew it was there; but didn't pay much attention.
At some point, nostalgia kicked in and I began to remember those two little patches behind the garage. I started to pay attention to the seasons. And dad would (and still does) walk out back behind the garage with his jack knife and a plastic bag and cut a couple pounds for me. The big leafy greens from the top would get thrown into the field. The stalks would go into the bag.
At first, I wasn't too brave with my bounty. I would stew it and eat it out of the bowl, just like I remembered it from my childhood days. And then, I grew a little braver. Going from stewed to preserves. And then using it as a filling for pies and pastries and other sundry items.
It took many years to realize what that little treasure was out behind my parent's garage/ barn. Or how lucky I was to have such easy access to the "fresh stuff". (I have seen some of the stuff in the stores, and let me tell you people... it ain't always pretty.) I know that I should probably just go ahead and transplant some of it over to my garage and start my own little patch. But somehow, it just wouldn't be the same....
Since rhubarb was in season, I chose to prepare it two ways. Why? Because I could, that's why. I started out with a rhubarb-hibiscus compote (shown above) & used it to make mini-crostatas.
Secondly, I made Dorie's roasted rhubarb (with strawberries - sorry, I had to dabble) - which, I guess was okay, because I think this was another non-recipe (more like a technique that screams "play with me").
The purpose of roasting the rhubarb is to keep the crunch going, right? I am certain that if I had not grown up on stewed rhubarb, I would have fallen in love with the texture and would be able to sop up bowls of this on it's own. But, alas! I was nursed on stewed rhubarb and that is what I most long for. It's a nostalgia thing...
M'thinks this would have been nice inside of a free-form crust...
Rhubarb Hibiscus Compote
Adapted from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain
2 lbs rhubarb stalks, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut into 3/4" pieces (~6 cups, divided)
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
2 Tbs dried hibiscus flowers
Prepare the rhubarb as noted above. Place 4 cups of the prepared rhubarb in a heavy bottom 5-quart capacity pot. Place the hibiscus leaves in a cheesecloth bundle and place in the pot with the rhubarb. Add the brown sugar, stir to combine.
Cover the mixture and cook over medium-low heat for ~15 minutes until the rhubarb starts to break down. At this point, take the cover off and turn the heat up to medium and cook for another 15 minutes or so (stir continuously) until the rhubarb is thick and a spoon leaves a trail at the bottom of the pot.
During the last five minutes of cooking time, add the remaining two cups of rhubarb & stir to combine. (You want to leave these pieces with a bit of texture).
Remove pot from heat & pour mixture into a pie plate or baking dish to cool. Once the mixture is cool, remove the cheesecloth bundle (be sure to squeeze it out to make sure you are extracting any juice from it into the compote) & discard. Use as a filling or a condiment - the compote will keep well in a glass jar for about a week or so.
This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie. Come check out what everyone else has been up to!