Rhubarb is a vegetable that is often treated as a fruit in cooking. It has a tart, sour taste that can add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes. Rhubarb is in season during the spring and early summer months, making this the perfect time to make use of any fresh rhubarb you may have harvested or purchased. While rhubarb is commonly cooked with sugar to make sweet dishes like pies, crisps, and compotes, the raw vegetable can also be used in savory preparations. Here are some ideas for using raw rhubarb in your cooking:
One of the simplest ways to use raw rhubarb is to add it to fresh salad mixes. The tart flavor balances well with bitter greens like arugula or radicchio. Thinly slice raw rhubarb stalks and toss them into your favorite salad combination. The rhubarb will add crunchy texture as well as flavor. You can also use shredded raw rhubarb as a slaw-style salad topping in place of traditional coleslaw.
Rhubarb Salad Recipes
|Strawberry Rhubarb Salad||Chopped raw rhubarb, sliced strawberries, spinach, walnuts, feta cheese, balsamic vinaigrette|
|Shaved Rhubarb and Fennel||Thinly sliced rhubarb and fennel bulbs, fresh herbs like dill or mint, lemon dressing|
|Rhubarb Slaw||Shredded rhubarb and carrots, cabbage, toasted almonds, creamy poppy seed dressing|
As you can see, raw rhubarb pairs well with fruits like strawberries, crunchy veggies like fennel, nuts like walnuts or almonds, and acidic dressings like lemon or balsamic. Get creative with salad ingredients that complement tart rhubarb.
Raw rhubarb can be pureed or chopped to make flavorful sauces. The pretty pink color also makes it a fun addition to chutneys, relishes, salsas, and dips. Simmer chopped rhubarb with complementary ingredients like ginger, chili peppers, garlic, onions, or vinegar to develop the flavor. Puree in a blender for smooth sauces or keep the texture chunky depending on your preference.
Some sauce ideas:
– Rhubarb barbecue sauce – simmer rhubarb with ketchup, vinegar, chili powder, garlic.
– Rhubarb chutney – cook rhubarb with Indian spices like cumin, ginger, coriander, mustard seed.
– Rhubarb salsa – mix chopped raw rhubarb with tomatoes, onion, cilantro, lime juice.
Use rhubarb sauces on meat or fish, stir into grains or yogurt, or employ as a dip for snacks.
Juices and Smoothies
Don’t forget about using raw rhubarb to make refreshing beverages! The tart, citrusy flavor can enhance the taste of fruit juices. Rhubarb also contains beneficial compounds like antioxidant polyphenols.
To make rhubarb juice, run stalks through a juicer or vegetable press. Sweeten with a bit of honey or fruit juice if desired. For smoothies, blend chopped raw rhubarb with your favorite fruits, yogurt, milk, ice, and sweetener.
Some rhubarb juice/smoothie ideas:
– Rhubarb lemonade – rhubarb juice, lemon juice, simple syrup
– Rhubarb strawberry smoothie – rhubarb, strawberries, Greek yogurt, milk
– Rhubarb ginger juice – rhubarb, fresh ginger, apple juice
– Green rhubarb smoothie – rhubarb, spinach, banana, avocado, almond milk
Rhubarb adds nutrition and its signature tart flavor to refreshingly healthy beverages. It works well blended with other fruits and sweeter ingredients.
Pickles and Preserves
The firm, crunchy texture of rhubarb is perfect for pickling. Use raw rhubarb stalks cut into spears or chunks in quick refrigerator pickle recipes. Simmer the rhubarb with vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices. Store the cooled pickles in jars in the fridge. Enjoy rhubarb pickles as a condiment or snack.
Raw rhubarb can also be cooked into sweet or savory preserves. Cook chopped rhubarb over low heat with sugar or honey for a spreadable jam, or with savory ingredients like onions, garlic, peppers, or herbs for a chutney-style preserve. Fill jars while hot and process for shelf-stable condiments. Rhubarb jams and chutneys are great with cheese, meat, crackers, or sandwiches.
While it’s most common to pair cooked rhubarb with sweet baked goods, you can use the raw stalks to add moisture, texture, and tartness to items like:
– Scones – fold chopped raw rhubarb into scone dough along with cheese, herbs, dried fruit.
– Muffins – mix diced rhubarb into batter along with nuts, oats, zucchini, carrots.
– Quick breads and cakes – substitute raw rhubarb for some or all of the fruit. Works well in banana bread, zucchini bread, apple cakes.
The raw rhubarb will soften during baking while still retaining a little texture. Keep in mind the added moisture content of fresh rhubarb when mixing your batter.
For more savory applications, raw rhubarb can be added to:
|Risotto or farro dishes||Stir chopped raw rhubarb into the grains for the last few minutes of cooking|
|Quiche||Layer raw rhubarb slices into quiche before baking|
|Tacos||Add raw rhubarb slaw to fish or chicken tacos|
|Pasta||Toss sliced raw rhubarb into hot pasta. Works well with ricotta cheese|
|Sauteed vegetables||Add raw rhubarb to sauteed spring veggies like asparagus or radish|
|Savory galettes||Layer sliced raw rhubarb with greens, meats, cheeses in a hand pie|
The rhubarb will soften slightly but retain some of its crisp texture to contrast with the other ingredients.
Other Ways to Use Raw Rhubarb
Looking for more unique ways to use the raw rhubarb in your kitchen? Here are a few more possibilities:
– Infuse vodka or gin with chopped raw rhubarb for a pink cocktail mixer.
– Make rhubarb simple syrup for cocktails by simmering raw rhubarb with sugar and water, then straining out the solids.
– Use raw rhubarb stalks as the “glass” when making rhubarb jelly shots.
– Blend raw rhubarb into your rub or marinade for meats. Provides moisture and flavor.
– Roast raw rhubarb wedges tossed in oil and spices at a high heat until caramelized.
– Candy raw rhubarb by first poaching in sugar syrup, then letting the stalks dry out on a rack.Coat in sugar crystals.
– Ferment shredded rhubarb with whey, salt, and spices to make a unique hot sauce.
With its crispy, wet texture and tart taste, raw rhubarb is a versatile ingredient to keep on hand. It can add its unique flavor and nutrition to both sweet and savory foods. Next time you have an abundance of fresh rhubarb, look beyond typical fruit desserts and try experimenting with some of these savory dishes and fun ways to highlight this springtime vegetable.
In summary, raw rhubarb is a tasty and nutritious ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of sweet and savory preparations beyond traditional fruit pies and compotes. From salads to salsa, juices to savory galettes, there are many creative ways to cook with raw rhubarb stalks. Its crisp texture and sour flavor pairs well with ingredients like greens, cheese, ginger, citrus, onions, herbs, and nuts. While rhubarb is often cooked with sugar, it can also shine without sweetening in dishes like pickles, chutneys, and slaws. With its pretty pink spears and stems, raw rhubarb adds appealing color and zing to springtime recipes. Don’t limit this special vegetable to just desserts – explore all the possibilities for using raw rhubarb to its full potential in your everyday cooking.