And yet a branch of unforeseen mimosa,
Cleaving the heavens, falls across it all,
So in pages of philosophic prose
Sometimes will gleam a line of lovesick verse. -Mikhail Kuzmin (“Fuji in a Saucer”)


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)
inspired by and adapted from 101 Cookbooks


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.

6 thoughts on “A Spoon Sweet for Summer

  1. I never knew what the difference was between and spoon sweet and compote. it's very interesting and it turns out my stewed rhubarb is actually a spoon sweet who knew? the version i made today had ginger and peach schnapps added (though other times I have used grand mariner. so good enjoy as I'm sure yours is. off to have mine w/ some ice cream. enjoy yours and your down time.

  2. I love rhubarb and have been combining it with strawberries for a simple little compote for my morning yogurt. Cardamom sounds like a delicious addition!

  3. Well, this is only my way of differentiating between spoon sweets and compote. In my experience though, it's definitely been true. I think it all depends on the thickness of the syrup, but since I'm neither a professional cook or a real Greek, this is all guesswork. In any case, both compote and spoon sweets are good stuff. Adding ginger and peach schnapps sounds like it would lead to something really flavorful and good; I'll have to try this next time!

    Thanks again for stopping by!

  4. Strawberries would be a nice addition, too. The Greek and I were thinking of making a spoon sweet with strawberries and rhubarb, but since we couldn't resist eating the strawberries, that plan fell through.

    Highly recommend the cardamom, though. It gives everything a little boost.

  5. Good heavens, that looks glorious! I am excited for rhubarb season, and we just ordered rose water and orange blossom water (and pomegranate molasses and pekmez) to fulfill all of our Turkish cooking dreams. The orange blossom water smells like heaven, even without opening the bottle. I think I'll be infusing every type of fruit I can this summer;)

  6. Hi, dude, and thank you! I'm sad to say that I polished off the last of it a few mornings ago (sadness); I am, however, looking forward to getting my hands on some more rhubarb…

    And all the things you ordered sound great! I recently bought some Pomegranate Molasses at the Ashby Marketplace (a good place for Middle Eastern ingredients) and made a Persian chicken dish with it, which was amazing. I want to buy date molasses now, too! Enjoy all of the beautiful smells as you make your Turkish cooking dreams come true! 🙂

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