From Too Many Chefs -

August 15, 2004
Slumming it with rhubarb

rhubarb toast.jpg
This spring I noticed a lot of mentions of rhubarb in magazines, webzines and blogs. It seems to me that our pink friend is rather trendy this year, showing up in everything from a classy dessert for Clotilde to a Rhubarb and White Chocolate Lattice Tart in the May edition of Bon Apétit. These all sound lovely, but I'm a bit conservative about certain foods, including rhubarb. I started making it one way when I was about nine years old and so far I have seen no reason to change.

So what is this childhood classic? You stew about four to five cups of chopped fresh rhubarb with a dribble of water (just to keep them from sticking to the pan while they start to cook) and about 3/4 cup sugar. When it's all mushy and compote-like you taste again to see if there is enough sugar. You refrigerate overnight. The next morning, you put some bread in the toaster. In a grand adult revolutionary move, you use whole wheat instead of white. And then you spread a thick layer of cold rhubarb on your hot toast. It's wonderful. The toast is warm under your fingers, the rhubarb cold on the roof of your mouth. There is this sweet, warm soft layer of bread where the two meet. It's heavenly. It makes me feel like I'm nine all over again.

That said, I made a lot of rhubarb recently and my mother is not around to help me eat it up. So I will have it on its own as a dessert after lunch. I will pour it over unsweetened plain yogurt for a healthier breakfast. I might even try one of those elegant recipes, though I'm still not sure it will ever compete with the classic: rhubarb on toast. Mmmm.

For more information than you ever wanted on rhubarb, check out this site. They will tell you how to freeze it, how to grow it, where it comes from (Asia) and even give you the following charming limerick (from PeterW):

Rhubarb when raw is so tough
And its leaves contain poisonous stuff,
But when cleaned and de-soiled
Dipped in sugar and boiled
Then the stalks are quite tasty enough

Posted by Meg in Sussex at August 15, 2004 9:46 AM | TrackBack

never done quite that with rhubarb, but it sounds fabulous, i'll have to try it soon. what is it with rhubarb being so much discussed these days? it seems like most of my life nobody even knows what the stuff is, and then all of a sudden...

(for me, btw, it's all about pie filling)

Posted by paul on August 16, 2004 at 1:57 AM

It does seem like certain foods become trendy all of a sudden. I rmember many moons ago when raspberries were the rage, which gave way to peaches and eventually to mangos.

I'm sure it's a vast media conspiracy (or just good PR work on behalf of the Rhubarb Growers Association).

Posted by Barrett on August 16, 2004 at 8:45 AM

OK I know you're not talking about tarts, but I have to tell you that I bought the best slice of Rhubarb tart in that bakery on the avenue de Versailles market, and I really did hesitate first because I have memories of my mother's rhubarb tarts being so, well, tart when I was a ankle-biter myself... but this one was delishious! I don't know if it's just luck, or France, but boy they know how to cook here.

And thus ends my ramble on a boring August Monday afternoon...

Posted by Owen on August 16, 2004 at 10:42 AM

Owen, that seems to be a common experience: the Critic thinks he doesn't like rhubarb because his mother never put in much sugar and the few times I've managed to persuade him to eat a bite of the stuff as I prepare it he's admitted it's pretty good. I haven't permanently converted him though, mind you! (More for me!!)

Posted by Meg in Paris on August 22, 2004 at 4:39 PM