Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stewed Rhubarb

For me, rhubarb is springtime--the cheery color, the invigorating flavor, heck--it even alludes to baseball, describing a fracas (another great word) on the field. And come to think of it, the Red Sox had themselves a rhubarb day before yesterday. It made me miss Red Barber and those Friday morning conversations on NPR all over again. So it's only fair that I get rhubarb tomorrow morning for breakfast.

I like to start most days with a dish of yogurt, preferably Straus (I know, it's not local--but it's so good!) and fruit. And that's a lucky thing. Back in the old days, when I wrote checks at the grocery store (instead of using my debit card), sometimes I had a hard time remembering the date--even the month could escape me for a second or two. My clever trick was to think back to the day's breakfast. "That's right, I had yogurt with strawberries this morning...it must be June."

In the winter I rely on preserved, frozen, or dried fruits. If I wasn't lazy last August and September, that means home-canned pears, or applesauce. Sometimes I go with frozen pineapple. If I can remember where I hid the dates from my family, I add a few. Lately I've been eating my morning yogurt with delicately spiced stewed prunes (a favorite).

But this past weekend, one of my favorite shifts of the year happened. There was rhubarb at the store, and just like that, winter was firmly forgotten. The clerk asked (they always do) if I would be making pie with it. Much as I love rhubarb pie, it's not in this rhubarb's future. Instead, it's getting unceremoniously stewed, and stored in the refrigerator for breakfasts.

On the off chance I have to write a check tomorrow, I shouldn't have any trouble. It might be raining out, or even hailing, but I'll know what month it is. I'll remember my morning's yogurt, the slight rough edge the fruit put on my teeth, and the wake-up call its brisk flavor gave me. Rhubarb. April.

I follow--vaguely--Deborah Madison's recipe for stewed rhubarb from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

1-1/2 lb. rhubarb
1/2-2/3 cup sugar
rind and juice of one orange
1 capful of orange blossom water

Cut the rhubarb into approximately 3/4 inch pieces, and combine in a heavy pot with other ingredients. Cook over a low flame until the rhubarb breaks down--about 10 minutes.

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Charles Shere said...

Rhubarb. It always takes me back to, oh, 1946 or so, when I rode on top of the tooth harrow to weight it down, Dad walking alongside holding the reins, our mule pulling the contraption, breaking up the dirt clods left by plowing. At the bottom of the field were a few rhubarb plants, and each time we passed by I'd lean out and snatch up a stem and crunch down on it, dirt and rhubarb between my teeth, crisp and clean.

Giovanna said...

That's something I never thought of trying (eating raw rhubarb--I considered weighing down a tooth harrow)until last year. I dipped a piece in sugar--I was surprised how good it was.

But I hate to think what it did to my teeth--you get the feeling that the rhubarb strips the enamel off your teeth, and then the sugar is free to carry out its evil plans...

Grace said...

Mmm... is the orange water entirely necessary, or are there any cheap substitutes?

Giovanna said...

It's not at all necessary, I just like it. But it's pretty great with just orange rind and a squeeze of juice...

How do they flavor it in NL?

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