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Rhubarb crisp, jam, muffins, pie ... barbecue sauce? Why not

Rhubarb barbecue sauce (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

Ah, rhubarb. A true local ingredient, quintessentially Alaskan. We love it. … or do we?

Perhaps surprisingly, I've discovered that many Alaskans have a love-hate relationship with the bright red vegetable that grows like a weed all over the state each summer. Sure, those huge toxic leaves can be a pain. Don't eat those. Damn right, this stuff is stringy and sour. Yep, those bags and bags of chopped rhubarb are sure taking up a lot of prime freezer space otherwise reserved for — ahem, cough, cough — salmon. I've had neighbors anonymously drop pounds of rhubarb stalks at my doorstep, eager to offload the excess. C'mon, there's only so much rhubarb crisp we can eat, am I right?

All valid complaints aside, I am one of the ones who enjoys using rhubarb each spring and summer, and I look forward to finding new ways to use it, some of them downright delicious. Its bright color is captivating and its acidity surprising. Aside from the classic rhubarb crisp, rhubarb jam, rhubarb muffins, and strawberry rhubarb pie, rhubarb has been carving out its culinary place outside the dessert realm, anywhere from cocktails to savory preparations. A striking ruby red-hued rhubarb infused gin? Cheers to that. A smoky, complex barbecue sauce for all the grilling we will be doing this coming Memorial Day weekend and beyond? Hell yes.

Maybe a rack of ribs slathered in this stuff is just what we need to fall in love with rhubarb all over again.

Rhubarb barbecue sauce

Makes about 2 cups

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup chopped rhubarb

1 chipotle in adobo, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat oil in a medium-size pot over medium heat. Saute the onions for about 90 seconds, or until tender. Add the garlic, cooking another 1 minute. Stir in the rhubarb, chipotle and tomato paste. Add the paprika and season everything generously with salt and pepper. Then pour in the ketchup, water, vinegar, molasses, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until combined.

When the mixture begins to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until the rhubarb is very tender and the sauce has reduced a bit. Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool at least 10 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a food processor and process until smooth. The sauce will be thick. Water can be added as needed for desired consistency.

Use to baste chicken, ribs, pork chops, or seafood on the grill, make pulled pork in the slow cooker, or as a sauce for barbecue chicken pizza.

Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email maya@alaskafromscratch.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.

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