Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rhubarb - No, it's not red celery

For some, asparagus heralds the arrival of spring, but rhubarb is what tells me the days are getting longer.

The bright red stalks are now available at my local grocery store, even if the checkout clerks born and raised here in the south have no idea what this particular item is.

"Is that celery, ma'am?

"No, it's rhubarb"

"How do you spell that?" as they attempt to look up the correct produce code.

Growing up in Wisconsin, rhubarb was homegrown and prolific. Where I live now in southwestern Virginia, soil ph is more acid and it does not get an adequate interval of winter chill making it difficult to raise, so storebought will have to do. While there needs to be at least one rhubarb-yellow raisin custard pie for it really to be spring, this is an easier and delicious way to kick off the culinary arrival of the season.

Stewed Rhubarb with Yellow Raisins

3 -4 Stalks of rhubarb
Handful of yellow raisins

Wash and trim rhubarb. Slice rhubarb crossways into pieces between 1/4 and 1/2 inch long. Put about 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Add raisin and simmer a few minutes to plump. Add rhubarb and about 3 tablespoons sugar. Simmer until rhubarb is tender, a scant 5 minutes. Taste and adjust level of sweetness, adding more sugar if needed.

Serve warm or to my preference, chill and spoon over vanilla ice cream. If you are virtuous, you may substitute vanilla yogurt. One can make just plain stewed rhubarb, but the raisins pair so nicely, it is a shame to leave them out.


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