Rhubarb As A Vegetable

I inherited an established rhubarb plant in my community garden plot. This is no fancy, red-ribbed variety; it’s the hearty, old- soldier, pink and green rhubarb, like those we remember near clotheslines in the back yards. It’s never daunted by harsh summers or record cold winters. It pushes up valiantly each spring with newspaper-sized, fan-like leaves, yard long fleshy stalks, and it flourishes in poor soil. My tomato plants may languish, but the rhubarb is king.

In the past six weeks I’ve turned out strawberry/rhubarb pies, crumbles, compotes and jam. After I pulled out the bolting blossoms, it’s giving me another round. Rhubarb’s a native of Asia where it’s surely not known as the “pie plant,” and since it’s botanically a vegetable rather than a fruit, it must have traditional uses beyond dessert.

Rhubarb offers the sourness we find in lemons, tomatillos, sorrel, yogurt that we add to meats and vegetables in many guises. I’d never cooked rhubarb without sugar, but as I flipped though some books on Middle Eastern food, I found several recipes for a classic combination of rhubarb and meat in the Persian stew called Koresh. With some braising lamb from Sugar Valley Farm at hand and the rhubarb stacking up, I gave it a go. I felt uneasy until I tasted the finished dish which brought squeals of delight for its full, rich flavor and the fun in trying something new. Be brave; it’s worth tasting rhubarb as a vegetable.

 Rhubarb and Lamb Koresh

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb. lamb shoulder or lean neck slices*

½ lb. onion, diced (2 cups)

2-3 cloves garlic

few slices Serrano chili (optional)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger)

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ teaspoon turmeric

1 tablespoon chopped preserved lemon (optional)

handful chopped mint (or parsley)

½ lb. diced rhubarb stalks (2 cups)

salt and pepper to taste

1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)

*May substitute pork shoulder or beef chuck

Trim lamb of excess fat and cut into bite sized chunks. Heat olive oil in a heavy enameled cast iron braising pot and brown lamb evenly. Remove, pour out any excess fat and sauté or sweat the onion to soften. Add garlic, chili and ginger. Cook briefly and add cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, preserved lemon, mint. Return lamb to the aromatic base, add about a cup of water, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 1–2 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove any bones or bits of fat.

Add rhubarb and continue to cook until rhubarb pulps into the sauce. Taste and add a little brown sugar if the sauce seems too tart. Simmer to combine flavors.  Serve with steamed rice, a dollop of plain yogurt and more chopped fresh mint. (Photo shows a potato-crusted chelo.) Enough for 3.

                                                             Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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One Response to “Rhubarb As A Vegetable”

  1. Jodie Steiner Says:

    SO delicious! Made this last night using beef instead of lamb (to avoid resistance from my annoyingly lamb-averse husband). Best post yet, MJ!!

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