It cures what ails you.

Each day around three o’clock, a lull occurs that can only be cured by dessert.

I usually stop by our research and development kitchen and try to look sad until one of our pastry chefs gives me a bite of whatever she is working on. Diana took pity on me yesterday and gave me a spoonful of strawberry rhubarb compote, a big piece of cheesecake crust (made of shortbread cookie dough) and told me to make a sandwich. I happily broke the crust into bite-sized pieces and spread the bright pink compote onto half and used the others to make tiny cookie sandwiches.

Though her intention with the “sandwich” project was to keep me out of her hair for a while, five minutes later I was back for more.

I often crave the sweet-tart flavor of strawberry rhubarb compote nowadays, as a few months ago I had the pleasure of being a taste tester for Diana’s Strawberry Rhubarb project. Our chefs worked on it for weeks - it was a complicated process that included elements of culinary artistry (adjusting the tartness and notes of citrus) and science (measuring the degrees brix, or sweetness level, and adjusting the strawberry-to-rhubarb ratio). I got to taste it every step of the way. Now that it has been perfected, I seldom get to eat it and grab a bite whenever I can.

Centuries ago, dried rhubarb was quite expensive as it was used for a variety of medicinal purposes. Cooks eventually started using it in drinks and even meat stews, as it adds a wonderful tartness to both sweet and savory dishes. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in New Zealand and ate rich lamb chops paired with a savory rhubarb sauce. Now, five years later, I still remember exactly how it tasted.

Rhubarb should begin arriving at Farmer’s Markets this month, so keep an eye out (too bad our farmer’s market at Eli’s doesn’t start until May). With red stalk varieties, darker red stalks are sweeter. If you can find stalks that have been pulled, rather than cut, those are preferred since they don’t dry out as quickly.

This morning my vitamin C was feeling a bit low (whatever helps you sleep at night, I say), so I spread a bit onto a piece of our Original Plain cheesecake - delicious! The tart and fruity pairs well with the rich and creamy. I thought I’d share a simple preparation for strawberry rhubarb compote that is perfect for topping cheesecake or ice cream (below).

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote – makes about 2 cups
It’s easy to remember the quantities and cut sizes on this recipe - everything is “1/2″
1/2 pound fresh rhubarb, cut into ½ inch pieces
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut in half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. lime zest
Juice from 1/2 medium lime

Sprinkle sugar over the cut strawberries, drizzle with lime juice, and let macerate for 5-10 minutes. Combine strawberry/sugar mixture with citrus zest and sliced rhubarb in a non-aluminum saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil for about 5 minutes, or until the rhubarb pieces are tender. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Store, covered, in the refrigerator and use within one week.

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