Posts Tagged ‘Rhubarb Salsa’

I Love Rhubarb THIS MUCH!

Thursday, May 28th, 2015


Readers, you know I adore rhubarb. It’s tangy, it’s versatile, it’s colorful, and (at least in my corner of New England, thanks to generous neighbors) it’s free.

As Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, and even I have queried in song, “Who could ask for anything more?”

Yesterday I returned to the TV program Mass Appeal to stir up a little rhubarb happiness. Seth Stutman and I made two dishes. The first (one does sometimes make dessert first) was a dump cake.

The recipe came from my friend Vicky, who reported that her kids love it. I don’t blame them. It’s a variant on a crisp or cobbler and takes only minutes to throw together. Dump cakes are one-pan desserts, often involving (as in this case) cake mixes.

I’m not a big fan of cake mixes, and I HAVE made this recipe with “scratch” ingredients. If you’d like to eschew the mix, just substitute 2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1-1/2 cups sugar for the cake mix; finish using 1 cup milk instead of water and add a little vanilla along with the milk.

The problem with that method is that it requires you to mix the dry ingredients together. In that case, you don’t really have a dump cake. If you’re a non-mix purist, however, you may not mind.

One solution to the mix dilemma is to use a high-quality mix like King Arthur Flour’s golden vanilla mix. I tried to get some of this—but the mix didn’t arrive in time for my TV spot!

Here is the recipe as we made it on the air. (Note that I did NOT use the strawberry gelatin, which I find excessive, although you can see it oozing in the photo here.)


Rhubarb Dump Cake


4 cups chopped rhubarb (a little over a pound, enough to fill your pan in a single layer)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry gelatin (optional)
1 package yellow cake mix
1 cup water (or milk, according to cake-mix directions)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted (I tend to be a little generous with this—maybe 5/8 stick?)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread the rhubarb evenly in the bottom of the baking dish.

Sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb, followed by the cinnamon, the gelatin (if you are using it), and finally the cake mix. Pour the water and melted butter over the top. Do not stir. Bake for 45 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender.

Serve this treat by itself or with whipped cream, ice cream, or frozen yogurt.

making salsaweb

Seth and I also made a quick rhubarb salsa. This recipe differs from the one I have previously posted in that it is less sweet and less wet. It’s still delicious.

Rhubarb Salsa


2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/2 inch ginger root, peeled and chopped finely
3 to 4 tablespoons minced sweet onion (e.g., red onion or Vidalia)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 handful cilantro, chopped
the juice of 1 lemon or 1 lime
2 teaspoons honey
salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)


Place the rhubarb and ginger in a stainless-steel sieve or colander. Place them in a pot of boiling water. Leave them in until the rhubarb begins to soften (about 1 minute; you don’t want it super crunchy, but you don’t want mush, either).

Remove the rhubarb mixture from the boiling water, still in the sieve, and pour cold water over it briefly to stop it from cooking longer. Drain again. Let the rhubarb sit in the sieve with a couple of ice cubes to keep the cooling process going.

In a bowl combine the onion, the garlic, the peppers, and the cilantro.

In a small bowl combine the citrus juice and the honey. Stir in the salt. Add the drained rhubarb mixture (make sure to take out any remaining ice). Mix well.

Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving. Serve with chips or crackers and cream cheese, or with chicken, pork, or fish. Makes about 2 cups.

Rhubarb Salsa for Michelleweb

If you’d like to watch the video (in which I refer to another Rhubarb in my life and deliberate marrying a TV star), it appears below.

You’ll note that Seth and I refer several times to slime and sliming. His co-star Ashley Kohl was broadcasting that day from a local children’s hospital. For “Slime Day 2015” Ashley and several doctors and nurses were doused with a bright green liquid to entertain the children.

Ashley is gorgeous. Darn her, she even looked good with slime all over her! I still love her, however, and so did the kids.

Rhubarb Country

Friday, May 29th, 2009
Perhaps leaves like this will win a contest in Aledo, Illinois.
Perhaps leaves like this will win a contest in Aledo, Illinois.

Rhubarb is in full swing in my corner of Western Massachusetts right now, pushing up outrageously large leaves to protect its red and green stalks. I love living in Rhubarb Country.

Areas like mine with a relatively cool climate are ideal for rhubarb, which must have temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to grow. It is cultivated extensively in the northern United States, in Canada, and in Europe and England. Rhubarb plants are hardy and don’t need a lot of care. (This is a major reason for my own love of rhubarb.)

Obviously, we’re not the only people enjoying rhubarb right now. A quick internet search lately yielded word of rhubarb festivals in a variety of places. I wish I could go to every single one of them. Instead, I’m mentioning just a few here—just in case readers feel like a spot of travel.

In Yorkshire, England, in what is known as the “Rhubarb Triangle,” rhubarb became a popular winter crop beginning in the 1880s. It was cultivated outdoors and moved in the fall into indoor rhubarb sheds, where it was forced and harvested by candlelight in February. 

The rhubarb sheds are disappearing from the Yorkshire landscape just as my Pioneer Valley is losing its historic tobacco barns. Nevertheless, the dwindling tradition of the candlelight rhubarb harvest is still treasured by the remaining growers and rhubarb lovers in the area.

They organize an annual rhubarb celebration in February. This year’s festivities included a rhubarb lassi drink from a local Indian chef. (I’d love to have that recipe!) The festival also included tastings of rhubarb cheese made by a local cheesemaker (and monger), Cryer & Stott.

Lanesboro, Minnesota, calls itself the Rhubarb Capital of that state. Its annual Rhubarb Festival is scheduled this year for June 10. It features rhubarb games known as the Rhubarb Olympics, including rhubarb golf, in which participants use a stalk of rhubarb to propel balls into the air. Naturally, it also sponsors a cooking contest, as well as a Rhubarb Rant Speakers Corner for people who love to spout off about this controversial plant. 

Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, has just concluded its annual Rhubarb Fest, which included a dance called the Rhubarb Stroll and an automotive Rhubarb Derby.

Aledo, Illinois, will hold its Rhubarb Festival on June 5 and 6. This event features sales by local businesses, a whole lot of rhubarb pie, and a contest to see who can grow the largest rhubarb leaf.

Conrad, Montana, will celebrate its Rhubarb Festival on June 13 and 14. This shindig will be combined with something called “Whoop-Up Days,” which include a car show and a rodeo. 

Finally, L&S Gardens, a nursery in La Pine, Oregon, will sponsor a Rhubarb Festival this weekend on May 30. L&S’s Linda Stephenson sprinkles vendors all over her nursery. Visitors can also find live music and of course rhubarb—much of it prepared in various forms by the local Dutch Oven Cooking Club, of which Linda is president.

She and her husband Sonny became interested in cooking in outdoor cast-iron Dutch ovens after reading about Sonny’s great-grandmother’s cooking methods in an old family diary. 

The nursery also sells fresh rhubarb and rhubarb plants that day as well as a small cookbook Linda has written, appropriately titled Rhubarb Country. She lures customers with samples of her favorite rhubarb salsa, which can be served on chips or on crackers spread with cream cheese.

Linda was nice enough to share her recipe with me so I’m passing it along to you, along with a few other formulas that show off this versatile spring plant. Perhaps it will inspire another festival or two next rhubarb season—even in my own area!


L&S Rhubarb Salsa

I know readers are probably thinking that both Linda Stephenson and I are taking our passion for rhubarb a stalk too far with the concept of rhubarb salsa. I must write in our defense that this salsa is AMAZING, my favorite combination of sweet and spicy so far this year. I served some to my friend and neighbor Will Cosby, who is emphatically not a rhubarb fan. He devoured it.  

So please reserve judgment and try it. (You may halve the recipe if you feel timid.)

One caveat: the salsa is a little wet. Next time I make it I’ll probably try omitting the water (I’ll mix the rhubarb, orange peel, and sugar in the saucepan and let them sit overnight; the rhubarb and sugar will combine to form juice). This will cut down on the water but not get rid of it altogether. One can always drain the salsa before serving it, however. Or serve it with lots of cocktail napkins! 

By the way, Linda’s original recipe called for adding the ginger with the raw ingredients at the end. I decided I’d like it to blend a little more with the rhubarb so I popped it in halfway through the cooking process.


1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons finely shredded orange peel

6 cups rhubarb, chopped 1/2 inch thick

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (yellow would do well, too)

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)

1/3 cup fine chopped red onion

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lemon juice


In a non-reactive saucepan combine the sugar, water, and orange peel. Bring the mixture to a boil over fairly high heat. 

Add the chopped rhubarb, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer gently until the rhubarb is tender (about 10 minutes). After the first 5 minutes of simmering, stir in the ginger.

Remove the rhubarb mixture from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. When it is cool add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. You may serve this salsa chilled or at room temperature. As I noted above, it is tasty with tortilla chips or on crackers with cream cheese; it would also blend well with chicken, pork, or fish.

Makes 4 cups of salsa, more or less (depending on the juiciness of your rhubarb).


Will Cosby smiles over rhubarb.

Will Cosby smiles over rhubarb.