When fresh rhubarb first appears in the grocery stores, it reminds me of spring.
Rhubarb originated in China and Tibet and was originally used for medicinal purposes. The earliest record of its culinary use in Europe dates from 1608.
Fresh rhubarb should be bright in color, the stalks firm and upright, the leaves a pale yellow. Rhubarb is best eaten fresh.
If you wish to store rhubarb, simply top and tail the stalks. Cut into small pieces and poach gently for three to four minutes in a little sugared water. Cool and freeze. This simple compote can be used in pies or crumbles, and it can be folded into custard or whipped cream.
Rhubarb and strawberries complement each other. The following recipe is a delightful use of fresh rhubarb and fresh strawberries.
Mary Elizabeth Evans, teaches cooking classes at Pima College and through her company, Teascompany at www.teascompany.net. To share a favorite recipe or comment on this column, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
4 cups diced rhubarb
2 cups strawberries
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 egg whites
Pour boiling water over diced rhubarb. Allow to stand for 15 minutes.
Drain rhubarb and place in saucepan. Add strawberries.
Mix flour with three-quarters of a cup of sugar. Add to fruit.
Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
Add beaten egg yolks. Stir to blend well.
Pour mixture into a square baking dish.
Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually beat in remaining quarter cup sugar.
Drop beaten egg whites in mounds on top of fruit mixture in baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until the meringue is slightly browned. Serve hot or cold.