Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Strange Food Fellows: It’s all rosy when matching salmon with rhubarb.

As I write this column for the June edition of TheBurg, spring has been slow to arrive. One gray, windy day after another passes and maybe, like you, I dream of warm, sunny days spent with family and friends again.

I read everywhere that I am “old,” but I don’t feel that way (yet). So, face covered with mask and sunglasses, I have ventured out to the farmers market on Friday afternoons, a less busy time than my use-to-be Saturday mornings. My husband, who has never made this weekly trip with me, has become my helper. I pick up pre-ordered things such as fish and chicken and grab produce quickly from my favorite stands. He shuttles the bags out to the car to “move things along” and spend as little time as possible shopping. (Not the way I like my market trips to go.) There are fewer friendly chats with vendors or browsing from one end of the building to the other. Many stands are sadly vacant.

But I am very grateful to be able to buy food, and there are still signs of spring showing up everywhere. So, I was so happy to see beautiful ruby stalks of rhubarb appear for their short time upon the “food stage.” Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that looks like a red-hued cousin of celery. It has traditionally been used for desserts like strawberry rhubarb pie or rhubarb sauce, a sweet, silky treat usually cooked with fresh orange slices. But I am starting to see more recipes for savory dishes that use rhubarb, as well.

On one of those aforementioned gray days, I was leafing through my cookbooks (again) and a recipe caught my eye. It’s from “My Kitchen Year” by Ruth Reichl, former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct Gourmet magazine. When the magazine folded in the fall of 2009, a very sad Ms. Reichl spent the next year mostly cooking and, as she says, “finding joy in ordinary things again.” The recipe that follows is from the spring chapter in her book. It is easy and good. Rhubarb and salmon—an interesting marriage.


Salmon with Rhubarb Glaze


  • 1 pound fresh rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 salmon filets (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • ¾ teaspoons each salt, pepper and sugar
  • Olive oil for the skillet


  • Cut the rhubarb into ½ inch pieces.
  • Place the cut rhubarb in a saucepan with a few tablespoons water and 1/3 cup sugar.
  • Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb starts to fall apart. Watch carefully and add a little more water if needed to prevent sticking. Then set it aside while you cook the salmon. (The recipe suggests straining the rhubarb sauce, but that’s not really necessary.)
  • Dry both sides of the salmon filets with paper towels (don’t skip this step if you want a nice crust).
  • Mix ¾ teaspoons each salt, pepper and sugar and dust both sides of the salmon filets with the mixture.
  • Oil a large, cast iron pan or non-stick skillet with a nice coating of olive oil and heat it until hot.
  • Put the salmon skin side up and cook for about 4 minutes or until a crust forms. Then turn the filets over and cook for about 3 minutes more. (Use your judgment here. I like my fish fairly cooked through, but many chefs prepare it on the rare side.)
  • Place the salmon filets in a platter and brush with the rhubarb glaze.

The salmon is lovely served with bright green petite peas and rice, jasmine or brown. This recipe will join my favorite “firecracker salmon” as easy-to-prepare dishes, both with a hint of sweetness and both capable of brightening a gray day.

Maybe you too are having a “kitchen year” during this strange time. I spend a lot more time in my kitchen, daring to wonder about that “new normal” so often mentioned. I hope all TheBurg readers are staying well.

Please note: Trim all of the leaves from rhubarb stalks as they are not edible.

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