So, rhubarb. The internet has been abuzz with rhubarb spottings and rhubarb recipes since the arrival of spring. Having never tasted rhubarb, the excitement in the air surrounding its arrival roped me right in, and I waited impatiently for my first taste. There seemed to be something very all-American about this excitement; perhaps owing to rhubarb starring first and foremost in that all-American of desserts: the pie. Growing up in a French/Tunisian home, desserts were more likely to be an almond cake lightly perfumed with orange blossom essence, or a chocolate fondant served with a dollop of whipped cream.

I spotted the long, slender stalks immediately; shockingly pink, they were set on ice, cementing their iconic status. A friend was visiting from Israel, and as we walked home with pearly pink stalks peeking out of our bags, we discussed how we would try it (she too had never tasted rhubarb before). I stashed it away in the fridge, its long stalks crammed diagonally between a milk carton and containers of flour, resting above a case of beer. We had a very active week (Broadway shows! Central Park! The Highline! Also: Eataly, a quick hop on the Staten Island Ferry to glide past the Statue of Liberty and admire Manhattan from the water, and lots of walking around the city) and the rhubarb didn’t make its way into our plans. When she left, and I found myself alone, with Yaki away on vacation, I turned on some music and had a date with that rhubarb, cutting up the stalks, and layering them into a buttery coffee cake batter. The smell of the rhubarb surprised me- grassy, intense, almost sour, I had to turn my nose away a few times. I enjoyed the coffee cake, a small square at a time, but not enough to share it with you.

I browsed the internet for clues. Surprisingly, rhubarb seems to be used mainly for desserts, its tartness countered by rather large quantities of sugar. So when I saw it being used as the vegetable that it is, by none other than Martha, I decided to give it another shot. The following week, I picked up another bunch, and set to making a salad for lunch. Sliced thickly, and bathed in honey, the rhubarb is roasted at high heat for a mere five minutes, just enough to take the edge off, and render it pleasingly soft. I added a few sprigs of thyme, and liked the herbal dimension they imparted. Next, walnuts are roasted for five minutes, as well, until toasty and fragrant. The duo is then tossed with arugula and thinly sliced fennel (or in my case, lettuce) and  some crumbled goat cheese, and dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s a quick, easy dish, and makes for a pretty unusual and interesting way to use rhubarb.

Tell me, do you like rhubarb? If so, what is it about it that you love? What is your favorite way to cook it?

Roasted Rhubarb Salad with Honey, Walnuts & Goat Cheese

From Martha Stewart

Prep time: 15 minutes/ Serves: 4

3/4 pound rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1/4 cup honey

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves plucked from stems

1/2 cup walnut halves

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (preferably white)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 bunches arugula (about 1 pound total), tough ends removed (I used lettuce)

1 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 450F, and position racks in upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, toss rhubarb with honey and thyme. Roast on upper rack until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet. On another rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, toast the walnuts on the lower rack until fragrant, 5 minutes. Let cool, then chop.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Add arugula and fennel, and toss to combine. Top with rhubarb, walnuts and goat cheese.

Other Ideas for Rhubarb:

Rhubarb Tarte Tatin// Tartelette

Rhubarb & Rosewater Syrup// 101cookbooks

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble// 101 cookbooks

Rustic Rhubarb Tarts// Smitten Kitchen

Rhubarb Compote// Martha Stewart

Rhubarb, Pomegranate and Vanilla Cobblers// Donna Hay

Shaker Rhubarb Pie// Saveur

Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam// Saveur

Rhubarb Sorbet// The Year in Food

Rhubarb Shrub// Hungry Ghost