Beyond the Pie
In early spring, beautiful crimson and green rhubarb stalks start appearing in the produce aisles and, if we’re lucky, in our gardens. Rhubarb originated in Central Asia where it is still used in traditional Chinese medicine. Although its history in medicinal and cosmetic use spans over 3,000 years, people only began eating rhubarb stalks in the late 1700s.
Only the stalks are edible, the leaves and roots contain too high a concentration of oxalic acid making them very toxic. However, the potency of its oxalic acid has contributed to several uses for cleaning metal, tanning leather, controlling insects and even as a hair lightener! You’ve heard of a “strawberry blonde” – well why not a “rhubarb blonde”? Purportedly, the rhubarb root gives a beautiful soft golden glow to light blonde or silvery grey hair.
Unfortunately the deliciously tart rhubarb is usually only found in pies or preserves. I offer you a couple of recipes where we use rhubarb as a condiment and also as a glaze for chicken. The ingredients combine to make a sweet, savory, tart accent to your meal. The beautiful deep pink hue is perfect to serve on Mother’s Day!
If you enjoy a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie, then you will really love this versatile rhubarb sauce. Combine the rhubarb with your favorite fruit and use as a topping for yogurt, pancakes, waffles, ice cream – or slathered on a slice of toast. This sauce is also a delicious counterpoint when served alongside pork tenderloin, lamb or venison.
10 stalks rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups fruit – your choice of hulled, quartered strawberries - raspberries - pitted cherries -peeled & chopped peaches, or a combination of your favorite fruit
1½ cups sugar
1 cup orange juice
Zest of one orange, grated
Zest of one lemon, grated
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan, stir well. Bring to a gentle boil on medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Use a flat spoon to skim off any foam that may have collected. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Stir well, place in glass jars, cover and refrigerate. This sauce is equally delicious served warm or cold.
Rhubarb Glazed Chicken
2 cups diced rhubarb, trimmed and cut into thin slices
1 cup red wine or orange juice
2 cups sugar
½ cup Dijon mustard
4 pounds boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
Combine the rhubarb, orange juice (or wine) and sugar in a saucepan and simmer on low until the rhubarb is very soft. Remove from heat and let it cool.
Put the rhubarb mixture and the mustard in a blender and puree, or use a hand blender, if preferred.
Grill the chicken until just about done (about 15 minutes total). Put about ½ cup of glaze in a small bowl and use this to brush onto the chicken then continue cooking for a few more minutes. Because of the high sugar content, only add it for the last few minutes of grilling or roasting so that the glaze doesn’t burn.
Be careful keep the reserved glaze that you will use for serving separate from the glaze you are using to coat the chicken. Serve the chicken with the reserved glaze on the side.
This rhubarb glaze is also delicious on grilled or roasted vegetables.