I live in a house divided . . . by a vegetable. I had no idea rhubarb was so polarizing. And yes, rhubarb is a vegetable. And tomato is a fruit — the world is an imperfect place. I’m on Team Rhubarb — I love the stuff. But when I told my husband I was going to try a couple of new rhubarb recipes, he looked at me like I had three heads — and one of them just told him we were going to eat radioactive waste for dinner.
I’ll give him this much: rhubarb is essentially bitter, red celery. When you cook it, you need to add about 27 cups of sugar to balance the bitter. (My husband says you need the sugar so you can’t taste the rhubarb). And then there’s this: rhubarb is poisonous. Rhubarb stalks are safe, but the leaves contain a toxin called oxalic acid that, when eaten in sufficient quantities (somewhere around 11 pounds), is lethal. The Moral: Pass on the rhubarb leaf salad. Unless you’ve always wanted to find out if someone answers the phone number on that Mr. Yuk magnet that’s been on your refrigerator since 1984.
Here’s my pile of rhubarb stalks, in their natural, uncooked state. Pretty, aren’t they?
So what do you do with rhubarb? My son thought rhubarb sword fighting would be fun. My husband suggested a rhubarb compost . . . as in throw it outside into the pile of decomposing organics. But that gave me an idea . . . Compote! My husband didn’t really see the difference.
A compote is simply stewed fruit (or vegetable in rhubarb’s case) in syrup. I used this recipe for Rhubarb Compote, and it couldn’t be easier. All you do is chop, dump and cook. I had some fresh strawberries laying around, so I threw those in, too.
After all that fruit cooks down, you are left with something wunderbar . . . I could eat Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote as soup! And while it’s perfectly acceptable to eat it with a spoon, I thought it would taste pretty swell spooned over a cake. A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend brought an insanely delicious Almond Cake over for dinner. It’s a Nigella Lawson recipe. And it’s made with marzipan — one of my all-time favorite flavors. Marzipan makes the world a better place.
The only thing is . . . Nigella’s recipe is written in Metric, which may as well be a foreign language to me — I think in cups, not grams. Google knows how to convert, though, so I’m golden. Sidebar: America is one of only three countries on the planet that haven’t officially embraced the Metric system. The other two? The international giants of Liberia and Burma/Myanmar.
Now, the problem with metric conversions is they don’t come out perfectly. For example, 250 grams = 1.057 cups. Baking is an exact science (that’s why I don’t do a lot of it), so this sounds like impending failure to me. But I’m game. I’m just gonna eyeball .057 cups and go with it. Well whaddaya know? Baking victory! The cake turned out magnifique! Plus . . . it came out of the Bundt pan in one piece, vice 18. All hail Crisco & flour!
Now . . . what to drink with my insanely delicious marzipan cake and rhubarb compote? Why, a Rhubarb Mimosa, naturlich. Talk about easy peasy. This is just simple syrup made with rhubarb and a sprig of mint . . . and added to a refreshing Italian Prosecco. I almost left the mint out, but it adds such a bright freshness to the drink. My husband made inelegant gagging sounds when I told him about the rhubarb and mint syrup. “What’s with adding weeds to your drink?”
Here’s the simple syrup in progress . . . the mint sprig only dips in for a minute, at the very end of reducing.
Here’s how I choose the Prosecco for this cocktail: I walked down the Sparkling aisle at my wine store and picked out the bottle with the shiniest label. I’m not a huge fan of Prosecco for Prosecco’s sake, but it makes a fine cocktail. And if you’re going to mix something with Bubbles (of any kind), you don’t need The Good Stuff. This one was $15.
This is a spectacular cocktail! Gorgeous in the glass (this photo isn’t doing the drink any favors), refreshing and waaaaay too easy to drink. And a fantastic match to the Almond Cake with Rhubarb-Strawberry Compote.
I even saved a little syrup and poured it into my lemonade for a non-alcoholic treat . . . Eureka!