It's time to break rhubarb out of its pie bubble and get it onto the dinner plate.
Rhubarb season is finally in full swing at my house. While I'm sure many of you more southern-dwelling readers are already picking strawberries and tomatoes, I am revelling in the first taste of spring bounty from a weedy rhubarb patch in the back corner of my yard, picking armfuls of stalks each day to transform into whatever compote, crumble bars, or cake I feel inclined to eat.
When my sister came to visit last week, she used a bunch of my rhubarb in a spicy lentil soup, which surprised me. It's not an ingredient I usually associate with savory foods, and yet it was fantastic in the soup, adding a tart flavor and soft texture with the slightly al dente lentils she'd used. It made me realize that there's a whole world of savory rhubarb recipes out there that I don't know about, which led to some digging. The result is this list of ways in which to use rhubarb that are not focused entirely on dessert.
1. Rhubarb chutney: This medium-sized batch of rhubarb chutney can be preserved in jars or used fresh. It's excellent on crostini with goat cheese or seasoned white beans, alongside a grilled cheese sandwich, or tossed with rice and sautéed greens.
2. Roasted rhubarb salad: A classic combination of fennel, arugula, roasted walnuts and goat cheese is updated with the addition of honey-roasted rhubarb. It adds color, texture, and delicious zing.
3. Rhubarb lentil curry: Rhubarb pairs beautifully with curry, as it lends that tangy sour taste that's usually created with tamarind paste or a squeeze of citrus. Stir it into dal near the end of the cooking time, so you retain some texture and full flavor.
4. Beetroot and rhubarb salad: Rhubarb always needs a bit of sweetness to make it palatable, so in this recipe by Ottolenghi it is tossed with some sugar before roasting. The cooled rhubarb is then combined with roasted beets, celery, parsley, and cheese to make a delectable salad.
5. Hazelnut butter & roasted rhubarb toast: While I'm not entirely certain how to categorize this recipe, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing I'd eat for dessert, so I'm going to squeeze it into the 'savory' category. This is very much adult-style toast, beginning with roasting rhubarb with honey in the oven, while making a homemade hazelnut butter with cocoa -- fancy Nutella, in other words. You top off the concoction with fresh basil leaves (see, there's the savory connection!).
6. Quick pickled rhubarb salad: This salad stands apart from the other salad recipes that all roast rhubarb to bring down its tartness; this one pickles it instead. Rhubarb is steeped in hot vinegar, sugar, and salt for at least an hour, then tossed with (its relative!) celery and fennel.
7. Rhubarb-cucumber salsa: The bright tart flavor of diced rhubarb pairs well with cool, juicy cucumber pieces in this fresh salsa recipe. There is a touch of honey to sweeten it, but it's balanced nicely by the lime juice and enlivened with cilantro. The original recipe from Bon Appétit recommends pairing with roasted chicken, but you could use it alongside falafel or other vegetarian/vegan meal.