Cook | A touch of sweetness tames tart rhubarb

It’s the season for rhubarb, which always makes me glad. I have happy memories of my Grandma Clara stewing me up a batch of rhubarb harvested from a neighbor’s field.

Rhubarb has a long association with traditional Jewish foods, from fish and lamb dishes in the Near and Middle East to compotes and puddings in Eastern Europe.

The plant’s purplish-red and green-tinged stalks cook up pink. Often strawberries or sugar are added to tame its astringency. Here I combine rhubarb’s tartness with beets’ sweetness in a borscht. 

Blintzes made with buckwheat flour are an earthy complement to the tangy Straw­­­berry Rhubarb Compote.

Rhubarb Beet Borscht

Serves 6-8

1-1⁄2 lbs. beet roots, trimmed

8 cups vegetable stock or broth

2 Tbs. chopped garlic

1 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1⁄4 tsp. ground white pepper

1⁄4 tsp. ground cardamom

1⁄2 tsp. sugar or more as needed

1⁄2 tsp. lemon juice or more as needed

garnishes (see suggestions)

Thinly peel beet roots. Dice into 1⁄4-inch pieces (4 cups). Bring stock to a simmer. Add beets and garlic. Simmer 15 minutes until beets have begun to soften. Slice rhubarb into 1⁄4-inch pieces (3 cups). Add rhubarb, salt, pepper and cardamom to soup.

 Simmer until rhubarb is falling part and beets are completely soft, 30-40 minutes. Taste. Add sugar and/or lemon juice to balance the taste from sweet to tart. Cool and purée half in a blender or with immersion blender and return to pot. Serve warm with garnishes (below) or chill. If serving cold, taste and correct seasoning before garnishing with sour cream or yogurt; sliced hard-boiled eggs; sliced, boiled potatoes; minced fresh dill or mint.


Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Makes 10-12

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (recipe below)

4 Tbs. melted butter, divided

For Buckwheat Crêpe Batter:

3⁄4 cup flour

1⁄4 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup milk

1⁄2 cup cold water

2 eggs

2 Tbs. oil

1⁄4 tsp. salt

For Filling:

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 beaten egg

1⁄4 tsp. salt

To make batter, combine all seven ingredients in a blender and blend on high until well mixed, then for another 20 seconds. Let sit for 1 hour and blend again. For filling, in a separate bowl combine the three ingredients and mix well.

To assemble blintzes: Melt 3 Tbs. butter. Heat 8-inch omelet, fry or crêpe pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter. When sizzling, lift pan up and pour in 1⁄4 cup batter, swirling to coat bottom evenly. Return to heat.

Cook for 1 minute or until the top of the crêpe is set and bottom is light brown or has brown spots. Turn out on a clean dishcloth. Repeat until batter is done, reapplying the melted butter before each crêpe.

Lay crêpe browned side down. Place 2 Tbs. filling in middle, leaving about a 1-inch margin at top and bottom of crêpe. Fold top over filling, then fold bottom over. Fold one side over, then the other. Repeat with remaining crêpes. Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry in batches, 2 minutes on each side. Serve topped with compote.


Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb

1⁄2 cup orange juice

2 cups quartered strawberries

1 Tbs. lemon juice

2 Tbs. sugar

Simmer rhubarb with orange juice until rhubarb is just soft. Add strawberries, lemon juice and sugar. Simmer until strawberries are just cooked. Chill. Use at room temperature.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. She blogs at Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].