I hesitate buying the first bunch of rhubarb this season. It means making something that requires the addition of sugar, honey or maple syrup. And it preferably requires a pairing with strawberries, which, smile, I already have in the basket. Okay, I go for it, make the plunge, committed now to making something sweet.
Back home, I’m getting ready to unload my market findings
and notice that the basket is not so predominately green anymore, that the punctuation of red is quite loud amidst the spinach, cucumbers and lettuce, asparagus, tomato and sweet woodruff plants, bok choy, and several kinds of kale.
I think of ‘red’ foods and flowers…all I can seem to think of is the red fruits right now and that ‘berries’ are the spring queens. I’m thinking I’d like to plant some red roses. It is that time of year, when the perennial red magenta peonies and china red poppies begin appearing in the garden alongside the spring purples and yellows, and when the planting the annuals that will yield more ‘red’ happens too…
So, wanting to honor this first significant burst of red, and following in the spirit of Helen Nearing and her “Simple Food for the Good Life”, I decide to simply cook the rhubarb (about 2-1/2 cups diced) in maple syrup (about 3/4 grade B) (btw Helen uses honey) in a saucepan with a tad of water and a cinnamon stick, lid on, fire low, until the rhubarb is soft but pieces are still identifiable as such. While it is cooking I cut up about a quart’s worth of strawberries into my new favorite bowl. When the rhubarb is done (it takes just about 10 minutes or so), I let it sit for a moment in the pot to cool, then pour the warm contents over the strawberries and mix. It is a perfect blend of cooked and raw, fresh and sweetened, delicious and just naturally good. I suppose if some sort of thickener is added, it would be a perfect pie filling! However, I eat it warm just the way it is, and a little bit goes a long way. finger licking, spoon licking good. The sweet is perfectly balanced by the tart and I am transported back to my childhood days of eating one of my favorite candies…when I loved the taste and sensation of those little discs called ‘sweet tarts’…smile. Except this is so much better….
The rest goes in the fridge and the discovery the next day is that it is even better cold!