The sweetie and I rented a lovely house in the Berkshires for the summer and with it came a scraggly rhubarb plant. The elephantine leaves beckoned to me and, knowing they were poisonous, I wasn’t quite sure how to harvest the stalks and remain alive. (Someone died for us to discover that the leaves are poisonous…an anonymous culinary hero.)
I turned to my copy of the invaluable The Kitchen Garden by Sylvia Thompson–which I’d brought up to the country for just such moments. Although I was prepared to cut the stalks with my sharpest chef’s knife, Thompson advised just giving each stalk a gentle twist near the base. She was right: I was amazed at how easy they gave way. I snapped off the leaves and threw them on the compost pile.
I was left with about 1 1/2 pounds of stalks and now understand why rhubarb is fairly expensive to purchase: So much to throw away, so little to cook.
I had some cherries getting soft in the fridge, so I decided to stretch out the rhubarb by combing the two into a compote. I used agave syrup instead of sugar to sweeten the batch and am delighted to report that it took only 3 tablespoons rather than normal 1 cup of sugar called for in most recipes. (True, the cherries added some sweetness as well.)
Try the compote over pound cake, yogurt, or icecream. It’s also delicious on its own.
Agave-Sweetened Rhubarb-Cherry Compote
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb
4 cups cherries (pitting optional)
3 tablespoons agave syrup
Cut thick rhubarb stalks into 1/2-inch pieces; cut thin stalks into 1-inch pieces. Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil in a heavy, 4-quart pot. Add rhubarb and cherries. Cook over medium heat, partially covered, stirring every few minutes, until the rhubarb collapses and the cherries are cooked, about 12 minutes. Stir in the agave syrup.
Serve warm or chilled. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.