Palate & Prejudice

May 6, 2009 in Side Dishes

Does a blog entry always have to document a success?

It seems to me that the two-way nature of a blog should allow for us to occasionally share the recipes that, well, don’t go so well. As happened recently. See, I was determined to overcome a lifelong loathing of rhubarb. As a consummate food lover, it really bothers me that there are a few foods I don’t like. I recently overcame my hatred of Brussels Sprouts, for example. As it turns out, microwaving frozen ones and topping them with margarine actually is NOT the optimal preparation, and trying a few other cooking methods like roasting and braising – using fresh sprouts – is actually quite delicious.

Surely the dreaded rhubarb would be the same, right? It must have just been a preparation issue. Since it’s in season (and of course at a low price as a result), I thought it the perfect time to tackle my prejudice. I scoured my cookbooks and the net in search of a nice way to celebrate the season with some other spring produce, and came up with a nice combination: a spinach salad with fresh strawberries and sliced, lightly cooked rhubarb, topped with a shallot vinaigrette. Should have a nice sweet and sour effect, using the classic pairing of strawberries with the rhubarb. Like so:


2 cups rhubarb, sliced on the diagonal (approximately 4 stalks)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 6 ounce bag baby spinach
1 dozen sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Place the rhubarb in a saucepan. Sprinkle on the sugar and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove from the heat and strain in colander. In large salad bowl, combine shallots and vinegar, then stream the olive oil in slowly, whisking constantly. Taste and add seasoning as needed. Once emulsified, add spinach and toss to coat leaves. Add in strawberries and rhubarb, tossing gently (just to incorporate). Divide into 4 servings and top each with walnuts if desired.


The cooking directions for the rhubarb were taken from several sources which seemed to offer some consensus – yet two minutes later (yes, exactly), the rhubard was absolute MUSH. Sigh. I drained it well, went ahead and assembled the salad anyway, just to see if the tastes worked well together, despite the texture. Well, it was just okay. I was hoping for tartness to combine with the strawberries, but it was really just weakly sour. Still, the sourness was offset well enough that it was edible, and I threw some chopped walnuts on the top to add some contrast to the mushier portions.

So why am I sharing a much-less-than-stellar recipe with you? I thought I might get some rhubarb-loving experts to help me out. Where did I go wrong? Give me some tips!