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Marcus Samuelsson dishes on how to cook this signature spring ingredient perfectly. 

Elisabeth Sherman
April 27, 2018

After a long winter, spring has finally arrived, and with it comes bright, refreshing produce to put a little extra zing in your homemade dishes. One of those ingredients, rhubarb, is especially important to Chopped judge and Red Rooster chef and owner, Marcus Samuelsson, who says this famously tart plant reminds him of his childhood.

Rhubarb, as flavorful as it is, can be tricky to cook. If you’re not careful, the texture can turn mushy, and its tartness—which can add an acidic kick to your dishes, in the right amounts—can easily become overwhelming. Luckily, Samuelsson has a few tricks up his sleeve to ensure that if you decide to tackle this mischievous vegetable in your own kitchen, it lands on your plate in perfect condition.

“You want to peel off the first layer, and then you want to simmer it with some brown sugar and ginger,” he explains. “Once you let it simmer, and it’s soft, let it sit overnight. Now you have these tender ribbons that you can jar up, or you can put them on anything.”

Removing the first layer of skin will take away its “rubbery taste” and bring out the stalk's most appealing flavors, and the brown sugar will temper the tartness. Note, however, that the early spring harvest of rhubarb will be at its most sour, so Samuelsson advises waiting until June to start cooking with it in earnest.

He suggests adding rhubarb to a whole variety of dishes, transforming it into a vinaigrette for salad, adding some “fish sauce, olive oil, and soy,” for a seafood sauce, or you can go the more traditional route and use it in a dessert. In case you need some inspiration, here are irresistible rhubarb desserts.

Mercer Culinary Genesis 3-Inch Forged Peeling Knife, $16 on amazon.com