One Ingredient Three Ways: Rhubarb

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After the ground thaws, green shoots and buds emerge as harbingers of spring. The rhubarb leaves are among the first to uncurl and fan out. Soon, green stalks will blush pink, then red, begging to be picked.

I always eagerly await rhubarb season. Its bright, sour flavor is welcome after a winter season full of rich, hearty foods, and it’s a versatile ingredient that works well in both sweet and savory recipes.


Rhubarb, Grapefruit, and Tarragon Margarita

Serves 2


1 cup chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
juice from one Ruby Red grapefruit, about 1/4 cup
2 ounces tequila
fresh tarragon


In a small pot, combine rhubarb, sugar, and water. Simmer over medium heat until the rhubarb is soft and the syrup has reduced slightly. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the pulp for another use. You should have about 1/2 cup of rhubarb syrup. Mix the rhubarb syrup and the grapefruit juice together.

Divide the tequila and the syrup mixture evenly between two glasses. Top with ice and fresh tarragon.


Rhubarb Morning Buns

Makes 10–12

For the buns:

1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon cane sugar, divided
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 egg, preferably pasture-raised
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

2 cups finely diced rhubarb
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cane sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt

For the topping:

1 egg, preferably pasture-raised
3 tablespoons water
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cane sugar


For the buns:

Stir together the warm water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of cane sugar. Let sit in a warm spot until bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, remaining 1/2 cup cane sugar, sour cream, and egg. Mix on medium speed just until combined, with a few lumps remaining. Switch to the dough hook attachment. Add the flours, salt, and yeast and water mixture. Mix until combined and continue to knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes, until the dough comes together into a rough ball.

Transfer the dough to a large bowl, brush lightly with a neutral-flavored oil, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile prepare the filling.

For the filling:

Combine the rhubarb, 2 tablespoons of the cane sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small pot. Stir until the rhubarb is coated. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar and cornstarch have dissolved and the rhubarb is soft and beginning to break down. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, remaining 1/4 cup cane sugar, brown sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and salt.

To assemble the buns:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, shape the dough into a rough rectangle then roll it out into a 13” x 22” rectangle with the 13” sides on the top and bottom. Spread the butter and sugar mixture evenly over the top two-thirds of the dough, then spread the rhubarb jam over the butter. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, starting with the bottom portion. Gently press the folded dough together. Cut the dough into 1” x 13” strips. Twist each strip around 2 or 3 fingers, tucking the end in to create a bun. Place the buns 2 to 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

For the topping, whisk together the egg and water and brush each bun with the egg wash before baking.

Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the rhubarb syrup. Combine the rhubarb, water, and sugar in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, the sugar has dissolved, and the syrup has reduced slightly. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving the pulp for another purpose.

Remove the buns from the oven and immediately brush with the rhubarb syrup and sprinkle with cane sugar.


Roasted Chicken with Cranberry Rhubarb Compote and Mint

Serves 2


2 whole chicken legs, preferably pasture-raised
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped rhubarb
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
fresh mint for serving


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Remove the chicken legs from the refrigerator and pat the skin dry. Place the chicken on a cooling rack set over a rimmed baking dish. Melt the butter, then brush it evenly over the chicken legs. Sprinkle evenly with salt and black pepper. Roast the chicken legs for 40 to 45 minutes until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, and the skin is crispy and golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the rhubarb compote. Combine the rhubarb, orange juice, orange zest, cane sugar, and water in a small pot and cook over medium heat until the rhubarb begins to break down. Add the cranberries and continue cooking for several more minutes until the cranberries are soft and begin to burst.

Arrange the chicken on a plate and serve with the rhubarb compote and chopped fresh mint.


Sasha is a Seattle-based recipe developer, food stylist, and photographer at Tending the Table ( where she strives to educate readers about our food system and inspire them to eat better for themselves and for the planet.

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