Try making a fool, trifle, or a parfait. Season up the rhubarb to your taste over heat (sugar, some orange zest, etc., maybe a little cornstarch to tighten it up) Then layer it in an attractive bowl or glass for a trifle with cake, custard sauce (vanilla instant pudding if you're not too proud and are in a hurry), and garnish with any combo of fruits and nuts, crystallized flowers, etc. Or do mix it together with whipped cream, a combo of custard & whipped cream, garnish as desired. Below a couple recipes, including some from Cook's Illustrated that gives some general info about rhubarb that might be helpful
Here's something from Cook's Illustrated with variations. Or you could make it richer by using both whipped cream and custard.
Fresh Rhubarb 'Fool' from Cooks Illustrated:
"How do you tame rhubarb's tartness without losing its true flavor?
When we decided to try our hand at this simple dessert--essentially cooked fruit with sweetened whipped cream folded in--we sided with tradition and used rhubarb as the cooked fruit foundation. Although fool is in itself no culinary feat, working with rhubarb can prove tricky. First, its sourness can be overpowering. Second, if boiled, or cooked too hard and fast, it breaks down into a watery, porridge-like mass. Finally, its vivacious red color leaches out easily, leaving the rhubarb a drab gray. I knew that before I could finalize a fool, I would have to tame the rhubarb.
To begin my testing I tried baking the rhubarb, stewing it for a long time, sautéing it in butter, and simmering it for a short time. Baking and sautéing turned the rhubarb pulpy, chalky, and bland, while stewing produced a watery cream-of-rhubarb soup. And in each case the rhubarb lost its attractive red color, presenting instead
hues that varied from gray-lavender in the baked version to pale, watery yellow in the stewed. The simmered batch, on the other hand, had a nice pinkish red color, a sweet/tart flavor, and a thick, toothsome texture.
The simmered rhubarb was not ideal, though; it was still too tart for most tasters. Looking further, I found an interesting precooking approach that purported to subdue its acidity: soaking 6-inch pieces in cold water for 20 minutes prior to cutting and simmering. When I gave this trick a try, I was surprised to find the rhubarb much less acidic, with a flavor that was more round and full. But this approach had one drawback: the color had dulled to a pale mauve. To figure out what happened, I called Barry Swanson, a confirmed rhubarb enthusiast who is a professor of food science at Washington State University in Pullman.
Swanson explained that a water-soluble pigment called anthocyanin is responsible for rhubarb's somewhat chalky, tannic mouthfeel as well as its bright pinkish red color.
When I presoaked the rhubarb, a portion of the anthocyanin escaped from the rhubarb's cut ends into the water, muting the color as well as the harsh bite.
Swanson also explained that anthocyanin is sensitive to the acidity of its environment. When the pH is high (low acidity), the color shifts to the bluish gray range; when the pH is low (high acidity), the color is red. Thinking about this, I wondered what would happen if I reintroduced an acid with no bitter or tannic qualities, such as the citric acid in orange juice, while the rhubarb simmered. This test was successful. The juice added just enough acidity to retain the rhubarb red without having any ill effects on flavor.
Now I turned my attention from the rhubarb to the whipped cream and the assembly of the fool. I tried whipping the cream to various degrees of stiffness, and my colleagues and I concurred that a soft-to-medium peak was just right. It gave the fool just enough body without making it sliceable and stiff.
Fool-making tradition dictates that the cream be folded into the fruit, but this gave the dessert a somewhat dull, monochromatic texture and flavor. Arranging the fruit and cream in layers produced a more interesting result. The natural tanginess of the rhubarb played off the sweetness of the cream, and the alternating texture
of fruit and cream made for a pleasing contrast.
RHUBARB FOOL: Serves 8
2 1/4 pounds rhubarb, trimmed of ends and cut into 6-inch lengths
1/3 cup juice from 1 large orange
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups cold heavy cream
1. Soak rhubarb in 1 gallon cold water for 20 minutes. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and cut rhubarb crosswise into slices 1/2-inch thick.
2. Bring orange juice, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt to boil in medium nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rhubarb and return to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring only 2 or 3 times (frequent stirring causes rhubarb to become mushy), until rhubarb begins to break down and is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
Transfer rhubarb to nonreactive bowl, cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 24.
3. Beat cream and remaining sugar in bowl of standing mixer on low speed until small bubbles form, about 45 seconds. Increase speed to medium; continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 45 seconds longer. Increase speed to high; continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume and forms soft peaks, about 30 seconds.
4. To assemble fool, spoon about 1/4 cup rhubarb into each of eight 8-ounce glasses, then spoon in a layer of about 1/4 cup whipped cream. Repeat, ending with dollop of cream; serve. Can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 hours. (To make one large fool, double the recipe and layer rhubarb and whipped cream in a 12-cup glass bowl.)
STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB FOOL: Serves 8
Clean and hull 2 pints strawberries; quarter each berry. Follow recipe for Rhubarb Fool, substituting strawberries for 1 1/4 pounds rhubarb.
BLUEBERRY-RHUBARB FOOL WITH FRESH GINGER: Serves 8
Follow recipe for Rhubarb Fool, reducing rhubarb to 1 1/2 pounds, adding 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger to orange juice along with sugar and salt, and gently stirring 1 pint blueberries into rhubarb after it has simmered 2 minutes.
May, 2001 Original article and recipes by Raquel Pelzel
" ...but in the spirit of 'stop, think, there must be a harder way, 'I figured starting from scratch might be more gratifying.'' (Judy Rodgers)