Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Un-Savory Rhubarb

So, after trying Claire's cake last week, I was pleasantly surprised by rhubarb.   Consequently, I was inspired to experiment with this newly discovered spring ingredient.  I was determined to find a use for rhubarb that did not involve baking it in a cake, pie or cobbler, or stewing it into a compote.  The crunchy snap intrigued me and I wanted to showcase it.   After searching high and low for a recipe featuring raw rhubarb, I came up with nothing.  Undeterred, I opted to create my own.  Perhaps I ought to have considered that there was a  reason that the thousands of professional and amateur cooks in the world have not published a recipe using raw rhubarb, but that did not occur to me in my quest.    I decided on a spring relish using raw rhubarb, onion, strawberries, and lime planning to top my grilled salmon with it that night.
Mise en place
Initially I thought to grate the rhubarb, but it resulted in a mushy mess that resembled runny applesauce, so I switched gears and chopped it with a knife.  I then added strawberry, onion, lime juice, salt and sugar.   The end result was  edible--but only just.  The rhubarb did have a pleasant crunch, but bitterness was the overarching flavor.  When all was said and done, the mixture looked absolutely gorgeous (I chucked in some fresh parsley in the end to add color) but tasted like a blend of things that did not really compliment each other.  I like contrasting flavors--mango chutney, fruit salsas, chocolate covered pretzels, salted caramel--but the truth is that this rhubarb relish would have been better without the rhubarb.

It was worth trying, but I won't rush back into raw rhubarb.  Chances are, if you can't find any recipe at all for something in this day and age, there's a good reason.  But this goes to show you that even experienced cooks with proven track records occasionally hit on a clunker....despite how pretty the dish looks.....
Looks can be deceiving!

In searching for interesting recipes that create that sweet and savory flavor marriage (along the lines of my rhubarb relish attempt), I happened upon these--which are tried and true in terms of fruit mixed with other ingredients:

Mango Chutney (thank you seasaltwithfood.com)
Fruit Salsas  (thank you greatsalsa.com)

Combos like these are great on fish, pork and chicken, and with grilling season upon us, I'll be rustling up versions of these more proven recipes in the coming weeks.    Farewell raw rhubarb.  I'll stick with you in desserts.

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