A member of the buckwheat family, rhubarb is often used in sweet desserts, the sugar masking the vegetable’s oh-so tart character. In this recipe, I lean into rhubarb’s savory side, taming its sourness by adding anise notes from fennel. The result is an additional complexity, a nice change of pace from overly sweet rhubarb recipes. Though the dish is great with just the rhubarb and fennel, for a more traditional, sweeter flavor, add strawberries. Like other rhubarb recipes, this rhubarb recipe is right at home alongside biscuits. Note that the rhubarb, strawberry and fennel should hold firm and not disintegrate.
Candied Rhubarb and Fennel
Play around with the sugar amounts – I’ve found it can be reduced by a third to a half depending on how sour you like your fruit and whether or not you are serving the dish with cream or biscuits.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced, fronds reserved
2 medium stalks rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½” pieces
1 cup strawberries, hulled and halved (optional)
In a medium-sized non-stick sauté pan, combine the sugar with 2 cups filtered water. Bring to a gentle simmer, whisking until sugar melts and is no longer granular. Continue to simmer gently, about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the water thickens and is a bit more syrupy.
Add the fennel slices and simmer gently about 10 minutes. Add the rhubarb and simmer gently an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Gently stir in strawberries, if using. Spoon mixture into bowls with a bit of the syrup. Garnish with a fennel frond or two. Serve.
Use any remaining simple syrup to create a rhubarb, strawberry or fennel cosmopolitan.