Where food and fire meet: Lilac, juniper, and charred-rhubarb tonic recipe by Courtney Burns
By: Robyn Welsh, Publishing Editor
This recipe by Cortney Burns was published on Lenny recently. The article, “The power of cooking with fire,” details Burns’ discovery and journey of her love for fire and heat. She initially describes fire as something that brought people together, “almost like a piece of furniture.” From there, fire is explored as it links to different points in her life and career.
Burns is currently building a restaurant in Western Massachusetts that incorporates the use of fire and wood. “I yearn to cook with wood that tells its years to you if you care to count. Wood that tells stories of drought and fire, wet springs and hot summers,” says Burns in the article.
Through this lilac, juniper, and charred-rhubarb tonic recipe, we see Burns’ love for fire through the charred-rhubarb. Char is not something you’d usually add to a drink, but hopefully you give this a try, or get inspired to create your own charred dishes. Burns says, “This recipe is my ode to new beginnings, as it has the first flavors I tasted from my own lawn in Western Mass.”
Lilac, juniper, and charred-rhubarb tonic recipe
What you’ll need:
1 cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
4 cup tightly packed lilac flowers (from about 1 gallon branches)
2 pounds red rhubarb
6 juniper berries
Gin or sparkling water
To make the lilac syrup:
- Mix the lemon juice and honey in a 1-quart container until the honey is dissolved; stir in the lilac.
- Press a piece of parchment or plastic wrap against the surface to minimize exposure to air, top with a small weight to keep the flowers submerged, and tightly cover. Allow to infuse at room temperature (65–70℉) for 1 week, checking on the flavor every few days. Transfer to the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for up to 1 year. (Yield 1 ¾ cups.)
To make the rhubarb tonic:
- Set aside ½ pound rhubarb to leave raw. To char the rest, set a metal rack directly over a gas burner with medium-high flame; prepare your grill with medium heat; or set an oven rack a few inches below your broiler. Char the remaining rhubarb, in batches if necessary, until it is browned in places but still very firm and crisp. Cool to room temperature.
- Chop the raw and charred rhubarb into chunks and run through a juicer, or purée in a blender, then use cheesecloth to strain the solids. Smash the juniper berries, and add them to the juice. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week, or freeze for 1 month. (Yield 2 cups.)
To make the drink:
- Stir together 3 parts rhubarb juice, 2 parts gin or sparkling water, and 1 part lilac syrup. Serve shaken, straight up, or over ice.
Cortney Burns is the chef behind Tourists and its forthcoming Loom restaurant in North Adams, Massachusetts. Previously, she was one half of the team behind the beloved San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine. Together with her partner, she received a James Beard Award for the Bar Tartine cookbook.
Recipe taken from lennyletter.com. To read Burns’ story and read more about the story behind the recipe on Lenny, click here.