Rhubarb Balsamic Trio

Rhubarb is one of my favorite ingredients. In a lot of American recipes, its tart-sour acidity is treated as something to hide, usually with a lot of sugar. The inspiration for this trio of recipes was my desire to find a way to use rhubarb without using a lot of sugar, and taking advantage of its acidity instead.

I started with a reduction. The rhubarb cooks down quickly if it’s diced finely, helping to thicken the reduction and adding a rich, smooth texture. It’s slightly sweet, mostly tangy and peppery, and is wonderful as a sauce for pork or duck, or as the base for a vinaigrette.

Rhubarb Balsamic Reduction (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 2 ounces fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1. Chop the rhubarb into small pieces. (about 1/2 cup)
  2. Stir together all the ingredients, except the pepper, in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Heat over medium heat to a simmer. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, using a liquid measuring cup to check. Adjust heat if necessary to maintain a simmer. Allow to cool.
  4. Process in a food processor until the mixture is smooth and blended. Stir in the black pepper.

In testing the reduction recipe, I learned that the moisture content of your rhubarb can vary. That effect showed up in the testing of this recipe, so I included an optional tablespoon of water at the end. You can add as much or as little as you need, to get the vinaigrette to the consistency you want.

Rhubarb Balsamic Vinaigrette (makes about 1/2 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons Rhubarb Balsamic Reduction
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon water (if needed to thin to desired consistency)

Measure the reduction into a medium bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until completely incorporated. Stir in salt, and taste. Add salt if you feel it needs it. If it needs to be thinned down, whisk in the water.

The flavor of the reduction improved so much after a few days in the refrigerator, I wanted to try making a meat glaze with it. I chose local honey, rather than grocery store honey, because it has a less sugary, more complex flavor. If you can not get local honey, look for wildflower or buckwheat honey at the store. Use this glaze on roasted meats or vegetables during the last 15 minutes of roasting, or the last 5 minutes of broiling. It’s wonderful on duck breasts, and any cut of pork, including bacon.

Rhubarb Balsamic Honey Glaze (makes about 1/3 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons Rhubarb Balsamic Reduction
  • 1/4 cup honey (local, if available)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
  1. Combine reduction, honey, and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a small saucepan.
  2. Heat over medium heat and reduce until the mixture thickens and thinly coats the bottom of the pan when you swirl it, to a thin caramel consistency.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the butter, and stir in until melted and mixed in completely. Taste, and add remaining salt and pepper if you like.

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