A couple of months ago I picked up a secondhand copy of James Beard's "American Cookery" even though our stack of cookbooks is getting a little hard to wrangle as they don't all fit on the kitchen bookcase dedicated to cookbooks. All other food related books such as food memoir, food politics, food history, et cetera, go on our regular billy bookcases in the living room, which are equally overflowing. But it's a classic so I had to have it.
I had a bunch of rhubarb I'd recently picked at my in-laws' cottage and decided to see what others had to say about it so I picked up the Beard. Though Beard "would not describe it as a champion among spring fruit" he does offer up a trio of recipes. I love old cookbooks more for the writer's voice than the recipes but I will consult the recipes usually as a starting point. Inspired by Mr. Beard's recipe for rhubarb fool, I set to work.
I cut up the 11/2 lbs of rhubarb into 2-inch lengths, combined with 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water in a saucepan, covered, and simmered until tender as per the recipe. I wanted to play around a bit though so I took about a one inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into rounds, and included that in the saucepan. The sugar was vanilla sugar and I tossed the nearly exhausted vanilla beans in the pot too since that couldn't hurt (and it didn't). Once the rhubarb was a stringy sauce like my mom use to make I let it cool. From there I strained off some of the pretty pink syrupy liquid into a 250ml jar and then passed the rest of the rhubarb through a food mill and filled a 500ml jar with the sauce. The food mill was part of Beard's recipe. It's not a complicated idea - just hadn't thought to do it myself before.
The purée is a really lovely sauce and the ginger and rhubarb play well together. The vanilla gives it all a rounder flavour. I've been using it judiciously spooned into granola and yogurt in the morning and over vanilla ice cream in the evening. Perhaps I should try it with whipped cream and actually make a fool. The syrup I've mixed with water and added ice for a late afternoon treat. So pretty in pink. It's hard to use the word pink and not say pretty too. I've also mixed it with rum and soda with the lime and mint remains of an earlier mojito and that was equally good. I long for a rhubarb patch to call my own.