How I Got My Husband to Love Rhubarb
Making rhubarb savory instead of sweet is what converted this author's husband. Try her recipe!
Kim Ode's husband, John, isn't big on desserts. So this 57-year-old, Minneapolis-based reporter always assumed that's why he declined all the rhubarb pies and tortes she liked to make. But when she came home with the news that she'd be writing a book about rhubarb, "the truth came out," Ode laughs. "John just winced at the thought of all that rhubarb!"
His dislike for rhubarb was partly textural: Cooked rhubarb can be slightly viscous, stringy, and loose. But he also objected to the overly sweetened taste of rhubarb in desserts. On its own, rhubarb is extremely tart, Ode says, so rhubarb recipes usually pile on the sugar to compensate.
As Ode started testing recipes, she found that while it still took a little sweetness to tame rhubarb's pucker, the resulting pickles, sauces, and compotes were solidly in the savory camp, winning John over. His favorite? Shrimp in Kimonos, a seafood version of pigs-in-a-blanket in which shrimp is paired with a rhubarb-rosemary-ginger-onion compote in crisp-fried wonton bundles. "Even after a year full of every rhubarb recipe test imaginable, John tells me I can make that recipe for him any time," Ode says
Rhubarb's ruby red, pink, and green striped coloring makes it one of the prettiest garden sights from spring to fall. Nutritionally, rhubarb has a lot going for it, especially when it's not over-sugared in recipes. It's low in calories (a half cup raw has 15) and is a source of vitamin C as well as fiber -- one cup of cooked rhubarb has 2.2 grams, about the same as a slice of whole wheat bread. It also provides calcium, a respectable 105 milligrams per cup of raw rhubarb.
Studies show that eating rhubarb can help lower LDL or "bad"cholesterol because of its mix of soluble (8%) and insoluble (66%) fiber. One big caveat: Don't eat the leaves cooked or raw. They contain a toxic chemical you don't want in your rhubarb dishes.
Cool Rhubarb Fact
Although rhubarb is botanically classified as a vegetable, in 1947 the U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, N.Y., ruled rhubarb was a fruit since that's how it was mainly used.
Rhubarb Recipe: A Side Dish to Grilled Meat
Rhubarb is good stewed into sauces, compotes, ketchups, and even "rhubarbecue" sauce. As a side for grilled meat, oven-crisp 2 slices nitrate-free bacon and blot with paper towels. Cook 1 medium chopped onion in a skillet with 1 tbsp bacon drippings until soft. Add 1 cup chopped rhubarb, 3 tbsp maple syrup, 1½ tbsp red wine vinegar, and a pinch of allspice and thyme. Simmer 5 minutes until soft. Mix with crumbled bacon and serve.
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