It really threw me for a loop. You mean to tell me the busty Beverly Hills 90210 teen star cooks? With rhubarb? And is able to spell it correctly? These were the thoughts that instantly ran through my head, proving that not only am I a judgmental a-hole, but I also confuse actors with their television roles, despite knowing better, and simultaneously freeze them in time—say, 1992 in this case. For all I know, the actual Tori Spelling of 2011 in whatever zip code she currently resides is super-smart and a fantastic cook and a warm and wonderful person unspoiled by wealth and fame. And if that's true then fuck you, Tori Spelling. You can't have rhubarb, too! Save something for the rest of us!!!
Over here in Waltham 02453, my modest success this week was helping somebody who didn't like rhubarb to like rhubarb. (My victories are small but sweet!) The idea behind these rhubarb-blood orange parfaits is to layer lightly sweetened rhubarb compote with fresh whipped cream. It's a lovely balance of sweet/tart, and a nice prelude to strawberry shortcake. Keeping the layers separate provides more flavor contrast while folding them together mellows the rhubarb tang. If you've ever heard of a dessert called a "fool," that's what it is: cooked, sweetened fruit lightened with whipped cream. As in, I pity the fool that doesn't like rhubarb fool! Anyway, I've been dying to try this with wild Japanese knotweed, but I keep missing the window of time when the shoots are young and tender. Too busy chasing down mushrooms, I guess.
What I'm trying to say is, Rhubarb Haters and/or Shannen Doherty, this one's for you!
Rhubarb-Blood Orange Parfaits
You can use a regular orange, of course, but I found that the blood orange deepened the color of the fruit compote, making for prettier contrasting layers.
1-1/2 lb. rhubarb, washed, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 medium blood orange, zested (about 1 tsp.) and juiced (2-3 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy cream, cold
Place rhubarb in a medium saucepan with all but 1-2 Tbsp. of the sugar (reserve remaining sugar for whipped cream). Add orange zest, juice, vanilla, and salt, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat slightly and gently simmer 7-10 minutes until rhubarb is soft but still chunky. Let cool. Transfer to medium bowl and refrigerate several hours until chilled.
Just before serving, whisk the heavy cream in a medium bowl until the wires leave trails. Add the remaining sugar and continue whisking until thick and an upswing of the whisk leaves medium peaks. To assemble, layer rhubarb mixture and whipped cream in each of four bowls, beginning with rhubarb and ending with cream. Serve immediately.
Source: Adapted from Raquel Pelzel.