Deep in the recesses of the Hayner backyard, and between the months of April and August, you could always find at least one of three natural harbingers of the season: forsythia, lilacs, and/or rhubarb. Standing guard with unruly pride along the border between our yard and our neighbor’s, these overgrown heirlooms, residing behind the tall turret of the swing set club house, which was behind the back garden, which was behind the pool, held a certain dangerous allure, at least for a kid of eleven. Drawn by the scent of lilacs, one could wander back there to feel quite far away from things and then, through the branches of the forsythia tree, conveniently (yet terrifyingly… again, for an eleven year old), witness the neighbor boys, who were like, 4 and 6 years older – and therefore unspeakably cooler – than you, undertaking the traditional Saturday yard-work/car-washing omnibus, with or without the presence of ratty junior high gym class t-shirts.
- Rinse and dry the stalks
- Chop roughly into about 1/4 inch pieces, but accuracy isn’t at all important – it all breaks down in the pan later
- Throw rhubarb in a large bowl and combine with 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt, then cover with a kitchen towel
- Go about your life for an hour or two (seriously, leave the apartment if you want – the rhubarb has seen more than its share of shirtless neighbor boys and $1000 strollers – it’s not going anywhere)
- Come back and put rhubarb and its juice (which will have seeped out quite nicely by now) in a small nonstick pan over high heat
- Once the liquid begins to bubble a bit, turn heat to medium and cook until the pieces of rhubarb become stringy and fall apart
- The compote keeps in the fridge for at least a week, if not more.
Of course, you can freeze this as well, or, you know, just stand around eating it with a spoon. My new favorite breakfast, though, has become greek yogurt with a healthy slather of rhubarb compote and a dab of lemon curd. Yes, tangy.