Picture this: You’re at the grocery store on one of those perfect, just-warm-enough spring days. You’ve decided to “pop in” to the “market” because you’re so laid back for a few ingredients for dinner that night, which you unrealistically dream you’ll eat al fresco wearing a loose linen garment from an overpriced boutique. You spot purple and green asparagus. Sold. A leafy bunch of dark green spinach. Done. Forty-five stalks of three-foot-tall ruby red rhubarb? Well, come on, you are definitely going to cook those, too.
Every year, it is the same sad tale. While the asparagus gets roasted, and the spinach gets thrown into some random recipe just as it’s wilting, the giant stalks of rhubarb — which barely fit horizontally in your fridge to start with — sit pretty and patient, waiting for you to do something with them. Every time you open the door, there they are, wondering when their day will come, as the shelves and drawers get emptied out and replenished with other beautiful farm-fresh produce. There the rhubarb remains, and because vegetables have brains, probably, the stalks are thinking, “Uh, I’m gorgeous and cool. What the hell is going on here?”
The draw of rhubarb in the spring is unavoidable. That gorgeous deep red color is as potent as a siren song (though color is no indication of flavor in rhubarb, so green is just as good as red). Look how tall! And how fresh and thick! Imagine all the delicate desserts that you could make, and the fresh whipped cream you could dollop on top. Rhubarb is an aesthetic signifier of hope springing eternal, and the sight of it in the grocery store conjures visions of garden parties with paisley tablecloths, crisp wines, English accents, and whatever rich people do on Saturdays (?). It’s almost impossible to resist buying more rhubarb than one person could ever know what to do with — and then as soon as you’ve figured out what to do with it, it’s as impossible to resist buying it again. When will you break this vicious cycle?
The answer is never.
So here’s what you can do with rhubarb.
Rhubarb and Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, Kitty Travers from La Grotta Ices
Rhubarb Crisp, Mark Bittman, NYT Cooking
Rhubarb Custard Cake, Claire Saffitz, Bon Appétit
Rhubarb and Raspberry Crumble Cake, Diana Henry from Simple
Rhubarb Orange, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, NYT Cooking
Sausage With Chard and Rhubarb, Melissa Clark, NYT Cooking
Edna Lewis’s Rhubarb Pie, Edna Lewis, NYT Cooking
Almond Rhubarb Picnic Bars, Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen