Fresh Rhubarb Salsa

Last week at family Easter the conversation turned to gardening, as it always does in a family of farmers. Being Spring, rhubarb was a hot topic. I happen to love rhubarb. It's a sassy little stalk with lots of sweet-tart character...but mostly tart. That's why the majority of recipes call for baking it into pies or whisking it into jams and compotes where the tart flavor can be balanced with cup loads of sugar. And while these recipes are undoubtedly delicious...they relegate poor rhubarb to the dessert table where she can (should?) only be enjoyed in moderation.

As I listened to my Mom sigh, "What good is a vegetable if you have to eat it with a cup of sugar to make it tolerable," I could not wholeheartedly disagree. Desserts have their place, but pretty little rhubarb deserves so much better than just cake stands and pie plates. So I promptly plucked a few stems from the garden and began a wild kitchen frenzy to find the savory side of rhubarb.

I'm not done experimenting yet, but I just may have stumbled onto something special with rhubarb-cucumber salsa.

Rhubarb has a tart, citrus-y flavor, so it pairs perfectly against cool cucumber in this fresh salsa recipe. I actually ate the whole bowl of salsa after I made it so I didn't get to run it by my little sis--who is a famously picky eater and my litmus test for all new recipes-- but I hope you'll be happily surprised. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

RHUBARB NUTRITION

Nutritionally, rhubarb brings great rejuvenating gifts to the end of the seasonal winter diet. It's high in vitamins A and C and a variety of minerals, particularly calcium. Rhubarb is also believed to be a beneficial blood purifier and digestive aid. If nothing else, rhubarb's refreshing taste is a great spring revitalizer.

RHUBARB STORAGE

Store wrapped in a damp towel or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Stems will soften and shrivel as they dehydrate.

For long-term storage, rhubarb may be frozen (either cooked or raw). It should be washed, chopped, and drained. (Frozen rhubarb will be soft when thawed.) Place in airtight containers and freeze.

Nutrition and storage info from Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, Third Edition

INGREDIENTS

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 2 stalks rhubarb

  • 1 cucumber

  • 1/2 large onion

  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro

  • 1 small jalapeno, de-seeded (Note: A sweet bell pepper or other variety could be subsituted)

  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp. lime zest and small squeeze of lime

  • 2 tsp. honey (more or less to suit your taste)

  • 1 TBSP olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste (don't be skimpy here!)

PREPARATION

1. Chop all of your ingredients finely and toss together! I know, that's it!

The lovely thing about this recipe is that the ingredients are really just guidelines. I actually didn't have an jalapeno pepper when I made the recipe originally, so I subbed a mini sweet bell pepper and tossed in some cayenne for a little heat. There are no rules here!

Also...this makes a surprising amount of salsa (more than what is pictured). If you prefer to eat salsa as a side to your meal, and not AS your meal like I sometimes do, this would easily be enough for four people. If you're a salsa fiend...this will feed two. If you are going to serve this as a side dish, please, please, please pair with a juicy fish taco. I think the two would get along smashingly, and even better washed down together with rhubarbaritas.

If you want to make this into a real meal, toss with a little feta cheese and some drained garbanzo beans, and VOILA! Leftovers are now a perfectly packable, healthy lunch for tomorrow.

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