Fresh Find: Rhubarb is a sure sign of spring

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You can't believe the weatherman, but you can believe rhubarb. Spring is really here. In markets now are the slender stalks of that bright-red vegetable that we treat and eat as a fruit.

This baked dessert is wonderful. The rhubarb holds its shape instead of dissolving into damp strings, and the port and orange zest add a complexity that is unusual in such a simple dish. It's wonderful served over ice cream, yogurt or plain cake, and it's also a fine relish for turkey or ham. All this for less than five minutes of work.

Add more or less sugar depending on the sourness of the rhubarb and your tolerance for sweetness. The right port for this dish is ruby port, which not only lends its flavor, but also saturates the color to ruby red.

The dish is from Ann Willan, the Brit who founded Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne, which operated in Burgundy, France, for 16 years until 2007.


1½ pounds rhubarb, cut into 2-inch pieces

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

3/4 cup ruby port

Grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the rhubarb in a baking dish large enough to hold it in a single layer. Sprinkle with the sugar to taste. In a small bowl, combine the port and orange zest and drizzle over the rhubarb.

Bake until the rhubarb is just tender when pierced with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. Serve chilled. Makes 4 or 6 servings.

-- "The 150 Best American Recipes" Fran McCoullough and Molly Stevens (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

Marlene Parrish:

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