What We’re Cooking This Week: Americano Rhubarb and Strawberries

The herbal flavor of the 19th century cocktail complements the tart rhubarb and sweet berry.

Americano Rhubarb and Strawberries. Photo by Jim Dixon.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Every year, as Oregon slowly warms enough for rhubarb’s scarlet berries to ripen, my dislike for the rhubarb-strawberry combination also springs forth.

I love rhubarb, and I’ll eat strawberries as long as they’re locally grown, not the cottony, tasteless berries available the rest of the year. But I’ve always thought cooked strawberries are an abomination. Recently, I was harvesting some rhubarb in my backyard, and it hit me—maybe the combo might work for me if the strawberries weren’t cooked.

While coffee culture has monopolized the word Americano—Italian for American-style—its first use goes back to a drink served in Milan in the 1860s. It’s the name for a simple cocktail of sweet red vermouth mixed with the slightly bitter Campari and topped with fizzy water, supposedly to appease bitter-averse Americans. But the slightly herbal, bittersweet flavor and the vibrant red color complement the tart rhubarb and sweet berry.

I usually eat this with plain yogurt or a splash of cream, but it’s also good with vanilla ice cream or spooned over a simple olive oil cake.

Note: Campari is a bitter red aperitif; others readily available include Aperol, Cappelletti, and Cocchi. I use Cappelletti most often. Sweet red vermouths vary, too, and I usually use a slightly less bitter Spanish vermouth.

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red sweet vermouth
  • 2-3 stalks rhubarb
  • 1 cup Cappelletti
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Use the tip of a paring knife to remove the stems from the strawberries and, depending on the size, cut them in halves or quarters from top to bottom.

Mix strawberries with the sugar and vermouth in a bowl and let macerate for at least 30 minutes on the counter, or up to a few days in the refrigerator.

Trim the leaf and root end of the rhubarb stalks and wash them under cold running water using your fingers to rub off any grit. Cut the stalks into pieces about ½ to ¾ inches long.

Mix the Cappelletti and sugar in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, add the rhubarb, and let cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rhubarb cool in the liquid for another 5 minutes or until it’s very soft but not quite falling apart.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the rhubarb to the bowl with the strawberries, then bring the cooking liquid to a boil and reduce the volume to about ¼ cup. Let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it over the fruit. Refrigerate before serving.

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