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Thursday, May 28, 2015

It's the Season

Compote.  [kämˌpōt]  fruit preserved or cooked in syrup

Don't let the stodgy image that comes to mind when I say "compote" discourage you from reading on, because folks this compote is as lively as food gets.  One of my favorite things each season is finding (some might say obsessing over) a recipe for a homemade sauce or condiment to keep in the fridge for when you need to liven things up.

Summer is up next, and that me
ans my favorite tomato "vinaigrette" is on deck.  Fall and winter -- all about the roasted pears or some luxurious chocolate sauce.  And, right now, there's spring in all its glory:  think peonies in a vase, buying and eating too much asparagus, sneezing constantly, white jeans and, since we are reaching the zenith of in-season-ness for strawberries and rhubarb, a spritely compote.

For me, the word "compote" brings back bad memories of canned pears for some odd reason.  Is that because canned pears are part of the mix of chopped up mystery fruit in a canned fruit compote?  You know the kind.  A staple of dorm cafeteria meals and always including those super slippery canned peaches as part of the mix with the occasional maraschino cherry added for a festive touch.

Well this is nothing like that.

This dead simple recipe comes to you from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook, via Smitten Kitchen, and even has a clever little twist to brighten things up.  You set aside some of the fresh strawberries and stir them into the cooked sauce as it cools.  In a word....genius.  And here are two more words...SO EASY!
Here’s how it goes:
You chop some rhubarb stalks and halve a couple pints of strawberries. Cook down that mix (reserving a cup or so of the berries to stir in later) with lemon or orange zest and sugar while you listen to some music or read the latest plot summaries for Game of Thrones. When it’s at a jammy sort of compote consistency you like take it off the heat and stir in the remaining fresh berries. Oooooh, now that was complicated.

For this minimal effort, you are rewarded with a compote that’s a sunshiny, sweet-tart of a sauce with many uses. Personally, I would like to bathe in it but you could spoon some over your morning yogurt, play the hero and bring it to your friends’ barbeque with some store-bought pound cake or simply liven up your oatmeal or pancakes one Sunday morning thereby declaring that spring has sprung. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

approx. 4 cups of compote

1 lb strawberries

1 lb rhubarb
1 lemon
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar

Separate out about a quarter of your smaller berries.  Trim and quarter them and set aside to add to the compote later.

Trim the remaining berries and halve or quarter them, depending on their size.  (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.)  Place in a medium saucepan.

Trim ends of your rhubarb and chop into 3/4 inch pieces (about 3 cups).  Add to the pan with the berries.

Grate zest of lemon with a microplane and add to the pan with berries and rhubarb.
Mix in the sugar and stir to combine.

Cook fruit over medium-high heat, stirring often, until everything is soft and stewy, about 5 minutes.  The fruit will release some juice as it cooks.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so to reduce and the rhubarb is soft.

Remove from heat and stir in the reserved fresh berries and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerated, the sauce keeps for a few weeks.
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