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Rhubarb’s tang adds depth to meats, sweets

Rhubarb's tartness, tamed by sweet onion and brown sugar, adds a tangy zip to pan-roasted pork tenderloin.

Rhubarb's tartness, tamed by sweet onion and brown sugar, adds a tangy zip to pan-roasted pork tenderloin.

Rhubarb is one of those foods that people comment on but seldom want to actually cook and eat.

It has a reputation as being sharp and mouth-puckeringly acidic. But the two types I bought recently were pleasantly tart and needed just a little sugar to balance the flavors.

When cooked properly and balanced with sweeteners, rhubarb can be brightly assertive on the tongue, a spring clarion call to get out and taste anew.

One of the earliest of the spring crops to come to local farmers markets, rhubarb is available year-round in the grocery. But it is in spring when rhubarb begins to come into its own.

Most commonly paired with strawberries in strawberry and rhubarb pie, rhubarb complements other fruit as well.

Bob Hower, an enthusiastic home baker, is an avowed fan of rhubarb as a tart balancing agent for almost any fruit pie. He happily pairs rhubarb with peaches or apples, turning out beautiful sweet-tart pies summer and fall.

Rhubarb’s unmistakable tartness has made for one of Garrison Keillor’s long-running pseudo-advertisements on “A Prairie Home Companion.” His Be-Bop-a Rebop rhubarb pie and rhubarb pie filling “takes the taste of shame and humiliation out of your mouth,” the only thing to revive the diminished spirits of the schlemiels in the commercial’s scenarios who suffer ungodly embarrassments, accidents and torments.

But you don’t need to have emotional reasons to enjoy rhubarb. Aesthetically, it is a handsome plant, with its strong, thin greenish-red stalk that cooks down into a lovely, rosy sauce.

If you grow rhubarb, beware that you remove all the leaves, which are inedible and even poisonous. But in the market, rhubarb usually comes already trimmed of all but its essential goodness.

Though most often an ingredient in lively desserts, rhubarb can also enliven savory dishes. Rhubarb’s tartness, tamed by sweet onion and brown sugar, adds a tangy zip to pan-roasted pork tenderloin.

While rhubarb pies are worthy desserts, the rhubarb-orange crepes and the rhubarb fool offer other dessert possibilities for this quintessential springtime food.

Pork tenderloin with rhubarb-onion sauce

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 large sweet onion, sliced

2-4 tablespoons water

2 cups diced rhubarb

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup minced fresh chives

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix 1 teaspoon oil, coriander, one-half teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into pork. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork, and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven, and roast the pork until an instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees, 15 to 17 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and the remaining one-half teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water; continue cooking, stirring often, until the onion is soft, 5 to 7 minutes more, adding water a tablespoon at a time if necessary to prevent burning. Stir in rhubarb, vinegar and brown sugar, and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb has broken down, about 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the sliced pork, and sprinkle with chives. Serves 6.

Rubarb-orange crepes


2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

1 and one-half cups low-fat milk

4 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

4 teaspoons canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 1/4 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (5 cups)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon butter

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Strips of orange zest for garnish

To make crepe batter: Combine all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, milk, sugar, eggs, egg whites, oil, vanilla and salt in blender, and mix until smooth. Or, beat well with electric mixer. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To make filling: Combine rhubarb, sugar, flour, orange zest, orange juice and butter in a saucepan, and stir over medium-low heat until the rhubarb is tender and the juices are thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

To cook crepes: Lightly oil an 8-inch nonstick skillet or seasoned crepe pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water dances on the surface. Ladle a scant one-fourth cup crepe batter into the pan and tilt to coat the bottom evenly. (If the batter is too thick to readily coat the pan, stir in a little more milk.) Cook until the underside is brown, 30 to 45 seconds. Loosen the crepe with a spatula, and quickly turn it over. Cook until the bottom is lightly browned, 20 to 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, rubbing the pan with oil between crepes. Stack the crepes as they are cooked. (You will have about 12 crepes.)

To assemble crepes: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the rhubarb filling in the center of each crepe. Fold in quarters, or roll crepe over filling in a loose cigar. Serve dusted with confectioners’ sugar and garnished with strips of orange zest. Serves 6.


1 and one-half pounds rhubarb

three-fourths cup brown sugar (packed)

one-fourth teaspoon ground cloves

Juice and rind of one-half orange

one-half teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur to taste

Trim the rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces and place in a saucepan with the brown sugar, cloves, orange juice and peel. Cook lightly for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has reduced to a thick paste. Add the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl, and leave to cool in the fridge.

Whip the cream with the sugar and orange liqueur. Reserve about one-half cup of the rhubarb mixture, and fold the rest into the whipped cream. Divide the rhubarb mixture between 6 individual dessert glasses, and chill until ready to serve. Garnish with the reserved rhubarb. Serves 6.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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