An elegant (easy) rhubarb dish

Rhubarb Compote
Sounds elegant, doesn’t it? Compote. One sees a stemmed glass dish full of something bright colored and glistening with sweet syrup. That’s it exactly. And the best thing, it is something different to do with rhubarb which abounds just now at least in my garden.


The recipe came from Linda Gilles, an island neighbor and wonderful cook. I can’t remember just now how it came up, possibly when she came to my house for the five or six stalks she needed for the compote. Rhubarb does need something to sweeten it up a bit, and oranges along with a cup of sugar in this recipe do the trick plus adding wonderful flavor.
I’ve blended rhubarb with apples, and of course, strawberries, once even with dried apples in a pie. You still know you are eating rhubarb but it doesn’t hurt. I have a couple friends who say they like eating raw rhubarb as if it were a giant celery stick. I am too much of a wimp even to consider that.
This recipe’s directions deliver rhubarb in tidy little translucent chunks and if you want that exquisite texture you do have to fuss a little. If you don’t feel like fussing and you just want to go for the flavor, then don’t worry so much about precise cutting and timing.
Linda adapted this recipe from one she found years ago in Gourmet magazine. If you don’t have enough oranges, Linda says, you can skip adding the last three and rely on the peel to do the flavoring job.
Linda said, “Delicious. Serve with cake or cookies, or with yogurt and granola for breakfast.” Breakfast is when Linda likes best to have it, so she usually leaves out the Cognac.

[single_recipe slug='elegant-rhubarb']

Rhubarb Orange Compote
5 oranges
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
Cognac (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a very sharp small knife, cut six 1-inch julienne strips from one of the oranges, being careful not to get any of the white pith. Blanch the strips in boiling water for 5 minutes, drain, and cut them into slivers; set aside. Squeeze the orange from which you have taken the strips plus one other. Pour the juice into a small saucepan and add to it the sugar and cinnamon and cook about 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Put the rhubarb in an ovenproof glass dish. Distribute the reserved orange strips over the rhubarb and add the orange syrup. Cover the dish with a baking sheet or foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still whole. Let it cool.
Peel the remaining 3 oranges and cut into wedges, removing the membrane that separates the sections. Add the orange sections and Cognac (if you are using it) to the rhubarb. Chill.
Makes six servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.