Don’t get me wrong, I love rhubarb pie, but in case that’s all you think rhubarb is good for, I’m here to convince you otherwise. There are so many things to do with rhubarb beside pie! So often when I’m buying a glut of rhubarb at the market the clerk will ask me, “Are you making pie?” “No.” I proudly exclaim and then proceed to tell her about the sodas or compote or pickles I’m planning on cooking.
So here’s to being different, with 10 great ideas for what to make with rhubarb outside the confines of a buttery crust.
It’s that time of year again. When the cold lingers but those vibrant, sturdy red stalks are just stubborn enough to break through the still nearly frozen earth. I’m talking about rhubarb, and I’m so glad that I am because rhubarb is the beginning. It’s the start of long, sun-lit afternoons in the garden, of tender asparagus standing tall in soldier-like rows, of sweet tomatoes, sweet corn and tart red raspberries. It’s all coming and it starts with rhubarb. How are your going to mark your rhubarb beginning?
That’s right, I said soda. Here’s how you do it. Combine 1 pound of chopped rhubarb with 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water. To that you can add a cinnamon stick, a bit of nutmeg and fresh ginger if you’d like. I’m partial to a split vanilla bean if I happen to have one lying around. Bring everything to a simmer then let it gently bubble for 15 minutes until it’s a bit syrupy. Strain out the rhubarb (and save it for ice cream or over yogurt for breakfast) and chill the syrup.
Mix the syrup with club soda and you have rhubarb soda. Add a splash of cream for a cream soda.
Take that syrup from above and mix it with lemon and gin. Or perhaps a bit of rum and mint? Or tequila and lime? Endless cocktail options.
3. Rhubarb float
Again, with the syrup. Make a rhubarb soda and add a scoop of ice cream – vanilla or strawberry. It’s perfect for those lightly warm spring days.
Preferably a roasted jam. Mix in some strawberries to add a bit more sweetness.
Homemade jams always need quite a bit of sugar to get it to set. What I love about rhubarb is that it is so tart that even when you add a lot of sugar, it still retains a pleasant tartness.
5. Rhubarb cake
Forget carrot cake, and make rhubarb cake instead! My recipe uses whole milk yogurt for moisture and cinnamon for a touch of spice. The rhubarb adds a pleasant tartness to a soft cake.
6. Ice cream
Why rhubarb ice cream? Because heavy cream and butter make everything good. And the pretty pink color is oh so pretty. I served my recipe for rhubarb ice cream with a side of buttery oatmeal shortbread. Bliss.
7. Rhubarb pickles
8. To top a salad
While you still need sugar to get rhubarb to be edible it’s possible to work it into savory dishes. My favorite combo is roasted with beets, placed on top of a bed of spicy arugula, then covered in tangy goat cheese and homemade vinaigrette.
9. On top of an ice cream cake
Roasted with strawberries, rhubarb is the crowning beauty of my roasted strawberry rhubarb ice cream cake. Layered with toasted walnuts, oat crumble and whipped sour cream.
Believe it or not, rhubarb can add a lovely note of tartness to sweet or savory soups. For sweet “dessert” soups, simmer and strain the rhubarb with a touch of sugar and the berry of your choice. Try the classic strawberry-rhubarb combo, or mix it up with raspberries or even cherries! Then top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
Going savory? Sauté the rhubarb along with a traditional mirepoix. Add in red potatoes and some veggie broth (plus salt and pepper, of course) for a delicious, hearty spring soup to ward off the last of winter’s chill.
We could go on, but I say that’ll keep us busy through the spring, right?