Early strawberries and rhubarb are a gift of spring, reflecting the essence of season and simple, fresh food. My inspiration for this dessert comes from Denmark, which does not have the luxury of a California-style springtime. After a long, dark winter, spring is eagerly greeted in Scandinavia, but the early season can still be bleak. Strawberries are not yet seasonal, but hardy, dependable rhubarb is. The Danes gallantly make the most of what they have and, with characteristic minimalism, harvest the rhubarb and use it in simple preparations that herald the onset of the spring season in their Nordic kitchens. A traditional preparation is a simple, sweet soup. The astringent rhubarb is cooked in water with vanilla sugar and served with cream. As simple as it may sound, this dish is a celebration of season and a comforting favorite, pleasing adults and children alike.
Strawberry Rhubarb Soup is a similar compote consisting of the season’s rhubarb and early strawberries we are luckily experiencing in Northern California. I do not add any water, because I like the soup thick and intensely flavored with the rhubarb and strawberries. Sugar is added to smooth the tartness and a touch of vanilla is added for extra depth. Allow the soup to cool to room temperature and serve either with crème fraîche, lightly sweetened whipped cream or simply drizzled with heavy cream.
Strawberry Rhubarb Soup
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 lb. rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2″ slices
1 1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled, halved
3/4 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heavy cream or crème fraîche for garnish
Combine rhubarb, strawberries and sugar in a large pot. Cover slightly. Cook over medium heat until rhubarb and strawberries give off their juices and rhubarb is very tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Serve in bowls. Drizzle with heavy cream or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche.