With our mild winter and what's shaping up into an early spring, is it too much to hope for that the rhubarb crop might be early?
Kim Ode, author of Rhubarb Renaissance (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $17), celebrates this weird vegetable -- yes, it's a veggie, although the U.S. legally classified it as a fruit in 1947. In this slim but useful cookbook, Ode uncovers "the far side of the culinary world," a "landscape where rhubarb regains its stature as a vegetable, providing piquant accompaniment to grilled meats and succulent fish and seafood and perfectly complementing the richness of cheese."
Yes, there are dessert recipes here that'll take you away from standbys like rhubarb crumble and strawberry-rhubarb pie. (Salted caramel rhubapple pie, anyone?)
However, there are also recipes for appetizers, main dishes, and sides. Rhubarb ketchup is the first on my list of to-tries for when the rhubarb starts coming in. Last year, after being wowed by a housemade ketchup that tasted like a tomato-applesauce hybrid (served at the now-defunct Optimo Cafe in Viroqua,) I made my own ketchup with the straggler tomatoes from the garden and I'll never go back to Heinz -- or for that matter Annie's or Muir Organics.
"Confetti salad of kale and rhubarb," which combines lacinato kale and easy pickled rhubarb, sounds like another must. (Note, I have not made any of these recipes as it's still pre-rhubarb time.)
Rhubarb can also be added to a stir fry, be a filling in ravioli, tart up a lettuce wrap, and accompany figs in a Middle-Eastern style couscous dish. That said, many of the recipes that aren't dessert recipes are for various sauces and salsas that will accompany beef or poultry. Rhubarb is too tart to stand alone, but these recipes remind the cook that it doesn't need to be propped up with cup after cup of refined sugar. Rhubarb Renaissance should point you in a new direction.