When I post a photo on Instagram of a dish I have made, I struggle to write a caption that’s quick and to the point, because I so want to explain everything about the dish. There is so much more to say about it than what it plainly is. Even the photo above has a story. It looks like a pile of chopped rhubarb. But there’s so much more to it! Like how I started growing these plants ten years ago after answering a post on GardenWeb from someone who needed to get rid of this amazingly huge and happy patch. I can squint and see the man and his cute house, walking the wilting plants in his arms to my car. And how after years of consistent growth, this year the rhubarb is a tangle of snaky stalks. I have been pulling them and finding uses for these slender slips, like a fresh relish or a cake’s garnish. I think I like them best in this new favorite recipe. It’s a savory sauce based on a gastrique, a kind of sweet and sour fruit sauce that goes great with rich meats.
Please note that there is a special ingredient in this recipe: rhubarb vinegar. Awhile back, when I was dealing in large quantities of rhubarb for my little jam company, I would have pounds of rhubarb ends that were not good for jam but good for making syrup or vinegar. Simply chop up these bits (no leaves, please!) and put them in a jar and cover with white vinegar. It doesn’t come out overpoweringly rhubarb-y, picks up a sweet shade of pink, and works wonders for a salad. I highly recommend making some! I still have at least a quart left. However, if you don’t have tons of rhubarb at your disposal, you can just as easily use white or apple cider vinegars.
Initially I was going to make this straight-up rhubarb but I threw a few strawberries in for color. I’m glad I did. There’s something about the combination of rhubarb and strawberries that’s not just about the timing of their harvest. They seem to round out each other’s tartness and bring about a buttery smoothness when combined. Sort of like when you meet someone who rounds you out in all the good ways: calming down your anxious tendencies and providing a foil for your kindness and sense of humor. It makes for a fine marriage.
Savory Rhubarb and Strawberry Sauce
Yield: 1 half-pint
¼ cup of rhubarb vinegar
¼ cup of water
¼ cup of sugar
1 cup of finely chopped rhubarb
1 handful of strawberries, small ones sliced in half
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Put all the ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Keep at a good boil for about ten minutes until everything has broken down, and it’s a uniform sauce. Add some salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste–I’d say a pinch of salt just for balance but not to make it salty, and a few good grinds of pepper so that you will hit a spicy crunch every now and then. I don’t think it needs to be pureed as the small dice will ensure a fairly smooth sauce, but if you prefer a smoother sauce go ahead!