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Recipe Tue Jun 10 2008
Rhubarb has been in full effect at farmers markets. I like seeing its dark, candy red celery-shaped stalks. They intrigue me as much as their deep green poisonous leaves say stay away. This has made me wonder what to do with rhubarb. Mark Bittman's recipe, Rhubarb Compote with Dates (How to Cook Everything), helped me focus in on a solution. I'd been heating the chopped rhubarb in a hot, dry pan, hoping to sweat its tough stalks into a tender submissive mess of flavor. I'd quickly worried about burning it before it softened enough. Bittman directed me to simmer the chopped stalks in enough water to cover. I poured cold water over the rhubarb already in my pan, not boiling as he'd suggested, and it still worked brilliantly.
I didn't have dates, but did find dried figs that'd been sitting about getting even drier. A day earlier, I had brought them to a boil in water to soften them up, and then let them sit overnight in the fridge. The next morning, I removed their stems, diced them up, and tossed them into the water and chopped rhubarb.
I simmered the fresh, tough stalks into a gentle, creamy compote, mixing in just enough brown sugar to take off the tart of the rhubarb. I poured it over diced fresh strawberries and cereal. Granola would be brilliant, too.