We're coming to the end of the time in between -- that point in the year when spring has begun stretching into summer, but fresh fruits have yet to show up.
After a winter spent gorging on apples, they've quickly lost their appeal. The apples we're buying have become inconsistent, and we're tiring of carrying them to work, or snacking on them at night. We thank you for your service, apples, but you're dismissed.
But it's too soon for strawberries -- hopefully, that may change this week -- and we're months away from the delicious stone fruits of August.
Rhubarb, however, is here. Frankly, it's a fruit* for which we have no great affections. Its raw bitterness can be difficult to handle. To counteract that, most recipes that include rhubarb tend to go overboard on the sugar, and the result is a too-sweet dessert that doesn't really taste like fresh fruit at all.
Nonetheless, we find rhubarb a welcome sight in spring. Tall and red and green, rhubarb is the first fruit soldier to the spring front.
But still, what to do with it?
Poach it and eat it as dessert?
Use a tiny bit raw or briefly simmered in a salad with a sweet vinaigrette?
Make a rhubarb compote or jam? Maybe, once the strawberries have come in.
Martha offers a nice suggestion this month, albeit one that requires ample amounts of sugar and, if you're into it, booze.
This is a Rhubarb Fizz.
This is a two-part recipe, one for a Rhubarb Syrup that can be used in cocktails or desserts, and a second for the drink itself, the Rhubarb Fizz.
The syrup isn't so much a syrup as a slightly chunky concoction (think the consistency of gazpacho, or a very pulpy orange juice). On its own, it's delicious by the spoonful. It would be spectacular on top of ice cream. Martha also suggests simply putting it in a glass and pouring prosecco on top, a recommendation that we heartily second.
The cocktail combines the syrup with lemon juice, sparkling wine and gin. We love the cocktail as is, but also think that this is a great opportunity to riff on the recipe, combining the syrup with things you love to drink. The syrup not only works just with bubbles, but you could sub vodka for gin, or leave out the bubbles completely. It will be forgiving.
This Rhubarb Fizz isn't quite enough to satisfy our craving for ripe, spring fruit. But it'll dull the pain nicely until the strawberries are ripe.
* We think of it as a fruit in our household, but rhubarb is technically a vegetable, although that's been a subject of debate for decades.
For a nonalcoholic version, combine four ounces rhubarb syrup with two ounces chilled seltzer.
Makes 6 drinks
Ingredients8 ounces gin
9 ounces Rhubarb Syrup (recipe below)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Ice, for serving
12 ounces chilled sparkling wine, such as Prosecco
6 thinly sliced lemon rounds, for garnish
DirectionsCombine gin, syrup, and lemon juice in a pitcher and stir to combine. Divide among ice-filled glasses and top off each with 2 ounces wine. Stir gently and garnish with lemon rounds. Serve immediately.
This syrup, used in Rhubarb Fizz, is also delicious in lemonade or straight Prosecco, folded into whipped cream, or over ice cream.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 2 1/4 cups
Ingredients1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, pod split and scraped
6 ounces rhubarb, finely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
DirectionsCombine sugar, water, vanilla pod and seeds, and rhubarb in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer until rhubarb is tender, about 3 minutes. Let cool completely. Remove vanilla pod before serving, if desired.
Syrup (with vanilla pod) can be stored in refrigerator up to 1 week.