What captures Spring’s sheer will to have sprung any better than those first rhubarb crowns busting through the soil, insisting on their right to be? Nothing speaks life’s stubborn determination to rise out of dormancy any better or signals any more certainly the end of winter’s sometimes over-long grip on the garden, on one’s spirit.
Rejoice for a moment. And then get to work. For rhubarb’s bounty will very soon catch you off guard, overwhelm you. And you will be praying for July 4th to hurry up and roll around; that’s the date after which you should cease harvesting rhubarb and let it go to seed and die back until next year. I sometimes think of rhubarb as Spring’s version of zucchini: what to do, what to do, what to do?!
Ported Rhubarb is one of my go-to answers to that question. I found this recipe in a library book, ages ago. I believe it comes from the great Anne Willan. And yes, The Best Recipes: 2002-2003 is still available at IndieBound, and maybe at your public library.
1-1/2 lbs. rhubarb, cut into 2” pieces (on the diagonal)
¾ – 1 C sugar (I like less)
¾ C ruby port (don’t substitute)
Zest of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 350º. Arrange rhubarb in a baking dish or rimmed sheet pan large enough to hold it in a single layer. Sprinkle with the sugar to taste. In a small bowl, mix the port and orange zest and drizzle over the rhubarb. Bake until the rhubarb is just tender when pierced with a knife, about 20 – 30 minutes. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled — over ice cream, angel food cake, or cheese cake. I sometimes crumble gingersnaps on top. I sometimes swirl it into plain yogurt.
Ported rhubarb freezes very well, if you have any left to freeze I mean. I can’t wait to serve this to my Lit Lunchers on Friday!