Before May skyrocketed into oblivion, I think it’s pretty safe to say that I was taking things kind of slowly. Perhaps more slowly than I should have, but that’s exactly what happens when suddenly, after months of full speed ahead activity, all activity grinds to a halt. To savor this feeling, I started to linger over my coffee in the morning and the late morning walks with the dog became more leisurely. Of course, the biggest indicator of my newly discovered freedom was the lack of an alarm clock in my life; my internal clock was given permission to set the pace of my day. For a few days at least, my behavior felt both celebratory and deserved, but then it all started to feel more than a little criminal
–and, to be entirely honest, perhaps a little too slow for my liking.
That isn’t to say that I was ready to give it all up, though. I decided that I just needed to channel my slowness into something a little more productive, so obviously I went out and bought some rhubarb. It was only last summer that I first found myself smitten with these ruby-hued stalks. They weren’t something that I grew up eating (in pie, with strawberries or in any other context), which is why, when I saw the loveliest pinkish red rhubarb and rose syrup over at 101 Cookbooks, I wanted to try to make it. But I didn’t get around to it until after we got back from Greece last summer and, after all of my time there and my tastings of various spoon sweets, I was no longer so into the idea of stewing fruit (or a vegetable that masquerades as fruit) to make a syrup. To me, it seemed like you would be losing the best part–the bits of broken down fruit. I tinkered with the recipe and instead made a version that was syrupy, but full of finely chopped rhubarb. When you get down to the picky act of nomenclature, what I made was compote.
And, while it was very good compote, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. I wanted something different–not only thicker, but with a flavor that helped to temper the tartness of the rhubarb and the sometimes overwhelmingly floral taste of the rose.
In a nutshell, I wanted a spoon sweet. I’ve written about these
here before and, in the year since I’ve been in Greece, my affection for them hasn’t abated in the least. For those of you who are curious about the difference between compote and spoon sweets, I would say that it’s all about the role the syrup plays. Whereas with a compote, the syrup engulfs the fruit, with a spoon sweet, the syrup gently cradles it. In more technical terms, it’s all about the level of viscosity. To strike the right balance and to move out of compote territory this time around, I added less water, threw in some cardamom pods with the rose water and let the mixture simmer for only about 30 minutes, which was when the liquid started to coat the spoon. What went into the two waiting jars turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for: a blushing pink syrup with fruit that had softened, yet still maintained some of its textural integrity. I’ve been mixing it into a bowl of Greek yogurt with pistachios and, on the mornings when the fog looks like it will never disappear, topping my oatmeal with a healthy dollop. Instead of the usual piece of chocolate I crave in the afternoons, if I’m home I’ll put a spoonful in a soy sauce dipping bowl and have that as a snack to tide me over. Unlike some spoon sweets or stewed fruit, it’s not tooth-achingly sweet since I used natural cane sugar instead of granulated. It’s the subtle changes that can lead to a real difference in flavor, just as condiments can transform a meal.
Rhubarb Cardamom Rose Spoon Sweet
yields about 14 oz. spoon sweet (filled 1 10 oz. jar and about half of an 8 oz. jar)
179 grams (about 3 large stalks, or 1/2 pound) rhubarb, roughly chopped
179 grams (7 ounces) natural cane sugar
3 cardamom pods, crushed with a knife
250 ml (1 cup) water
1/4 teaspoon rose water
-Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
-Stirring occasionally, gently simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the back of a spoon is coated.
-Pour the spoon sweet into waiting jars and put the lid on once the mixture has cooled. The spoon sweet will keep for a few months, although it most likely won’t last that long.