Rhubarb is a much-maligned plant. It prevails partly because of its utility (it’s prolific early in the year and this “pie-plant“ helps thicken and stretch pies, jams, and similar dishes) and partly because it is perfect when done right.
Doing it right means thrifty use of sugar, selecting tender green stalks, and exploring the territory beyond strawberry-rhubarb pairings. Since many chefs and bakers scorn frozen rhubarb, now is the time to look for the fresh stuff in assorted tangy shapes and sizes. The Inn Spot on the Bay in Hampton Bays drizzles rhubarb compote over Long Island duck. Breadzilla in Wainscott makes a rhubarb-cream pie topped with a pastry lattice work through which the custardy pink juice bubbles.
Paumanok Preserves of Center Moriches will jar a rhubarb chutney this year. And Briermere Farms on Sound Avenue in Riverhead offers its habit-forming rhubarb squares.
Rhubarb’s stubborn reputation means that it’s not always advertised.
So, this time of year, it’s worth asking for it.