Got Your Rhubarb in a Pickle?

pickled rhubarb rubiesDo you know that kind of sour that makes your saliva glands ache a little and actually squirt just thinking about biting into something? It’s like, no you don’t want to eat that, but you can’t stop yourself! And there you are 3 seconds later… not wanting to take yet another bite. But you know you will! A little shiver goes down your spine and you can’t decide if it is from pleasure or pain!

Well that’s the kind of sour I have for you today. The sour kind of sour, that can only be described as hurts so goooood!

And look at these things, I have seen engagement rings with less sparkle and appeal!

So break through your barriers, put aside your fears, and let’s take a journey on the sour side.

Pickled Rhubarb Rubies!

pickled rhubarb mixtureI am mostly teasing here. Because these little sour jewels won’t hurt you. They are just one ingredient in a luscious salad full of opposing flavors and textures. Which is just the sort of salad I love.

Sure there are plenty of sour little flavor bombs sprinkled about this salad. Just enough to really worry you (am I blushing??). But there is also tender, crisp, rich and nutty white asparagus.

And as if that were not enough to hold your interest… there is soft, green bibb lettuce. And bold crunchy walnuts, and creamy bits of goat cheese.

I am dressing this salad with just the barest hint of walnut oil. There is no vinaigrette I can think of that could ever hold it’s head up around these flavors. No, this salad needs the full fat flavor of the nutty walnut oil all by itself. Black pepper brings the final zing that makes this salad sing!

Serves 4 White Asparagus Salad with Walnuts and Pickled Rhubarb

Pickled Rhubarb

5 or 6 rhubarb stalks, sliced thinly (about 1/3 inch)
1‑cup sugar
1‑cup apple cider vinegarbraised white asparagus
1‑teaspoon salt

Bring the sugar, vinegar, and salt to a boil. As soon as all of the sugar is dissolved, pour over the sliced rhubarb. Let stand for at least 3 hours. Then put them in the refrigerator until well chilled. These will keep covered a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. They are a bit addicting so make plenty.

White Asparagus Salad with Walnuts

1‑pound very thick white asparagus
3/4 to 1 cup chicken stock, approximately
3 tablespoons salted butter
1 bay leaf
walnut oil
4 cups of butter or Bibb lettuce, washed and torn into bite size pieces
4 or 5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
some of the pickled rhubarb (as much as you can handle)
black pepper

Place the asparagus into a heavy saucepan. Choose a pan largewhite asparagus salad with walnuts and pickled rhubarb enough to hold all the spears in a single layer. Otherwise work in batches.

Add enough stock to come about halfway up sides of the spears. Add 2 tablespoons butter, and the bay leaf, and cook uncovered over medium heat about 8 minutes. Roll the spears around until spears are very tender and glazed.

Remove the spears from the braising liquid and set aside on a plate. One of the joys of white asparagus is that it does not quickly discolor from cooking so there is no need to plunge into ice water as with green asparagus. But you can if you want to. If you have an audience in the kitchen (and well, who doesn’t??) then please plunge away as dramatically as you can!

Once the asparagus has cooled completely cover it and place it in the refrigerator until well chilled.

When you are ready to plate this, toss a mild-tasting lettuce such as butter or Bibb with just enough walnut oil to make them glisten. Use the oil sparingly. It does not need to be mixed with vinegar or lemon juice. This salad has plenty of zip on it’s own! Mound the dressed lettuce in the center of each salad plate.

Stack a pile of 5 or 6 spears of white asparagus around or on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle a generous amount of crumbled goat cheese on top followed by plenty of the pickled rhubarb.

Drizzle with some more of the walnut oil, just a few drops here and there for sparkle. Then add a good grind of black pepper over everything. Pucker up and enjoy!


Greg Henry