by Debra on May 23, 2012

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Musical pairing – Glitter In The Air by Pink

My mother used to make quite a few of our family meals in a large, silver, Waring Dutch oven: Sunday pot roast, soups, spaghetti sauce, boiled potatoes for potato salad and many more dishes that escape my memory at the moment. But one of my favorites was rhubarb compote – although my 10-year-old self didn’t call it ‘compote’ – my 10-year-old self wasn’t as sophisticated back then (said tongue-in-cheek) – it was simply ‘cooked rhubarb.’

Rhubarb grew wild along the fence of our Little House on Ankeny Street – I have no idea who planted it originally or how long the plants had been there but every spring, those giant leaves would be whacked off with a large kitchen knife and the chartreuse green and red stems would be hosed down outside, then carried to the galley-style kitchen, chopped into smaller pieces and tossed into that silver Dutch oven. My mother would add sugar and water, place the domed lid askew on the pot for a bit and cook the rhubarb until it was squishy-soft and falling apart. The tangy scent of rhubarb blending with cooked sugar was hard to resist and I can remember sneaking a spoonful (or two) somewhere along in the process.

Mom would make at least one Strawberry-Rhubarb pie during the season because it was Dad’s favorite, but most of the time we scooped spoonfuls of the pretty, pinkish, sticky-sweet mixture into bowls for dessert. Fast-forward many years and every Spring, I can’t seem to get enough rhubarb even though we have several plants growing in our very own garden. My impatience has caused me to pay more than $3 a pound for the deep ruby stalks beckoning from their residence on the produce shelves. I usually make a batch of jam and at least one Strawberry-Rhubarb pie in honor of Dad but I find that I still enjoy a couple of scoops straight into a bowl for a snack or an after dinner dessert.

I prefer roasting the rhubarb in the oven versus stove top; the finished compote has a more intense rhubarb flavor and oven roasting also allows the sugars to caramelize a bit – the tradeoff is less in volume but I think the overall flavor is worth it.