On hold and dreaming of rhubarb

Tart stalks cook up into a sweet, spicy chutney

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Rhubarb ginger chutney (Bill Hogan/ Chicago Tribune / June 13, 2010)

At times the computer does exactly as told. At times it does not. You've seen this tendency in other members of the household: Dog. Child. Spouse. And while dog or child or spouse can be cajoled into compliance, the computer cannot. If it's not of a mind to fetch or file, it doesn't stoop to the eye roll. It simply refuses.

You mete out the appropriate consequence: Reprimand. Timeout. Glare. To no avail. Finally you pull out the number for the 24-hour toll-free help line and wave it right in front of the monitor. "One more minute of this nonsense and I'm dialing," you shout. The screen gives you a blank stare.

You dial. Right away you are connected to a recording. Which reports that you have been put on hold. Because you hold out hope of help, you hold.

Surely the electrons in your household are hooked up to electrons in some distant suburb, like Mumbai. While the electrons make time, you pass the time drumming your fingers on the desk.

You switch to the kitchen line, hit speaker and multitask. You slice a stack of rhubarb, peel ginger, sweat onions and stir up something that puts you in mind of the warm night and the distant landscape. After all, you've got time.

Half an hour later, just as the chutney is steaming spicy and thick, the call clicks through. The mild-mannered expert halfway around the globe seems eager to hear about your obstinate computer and your chutney-long wait time. He has no idea how to help. He does, however, have a fondness for chutney and would be delighted to get the recipe.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

leahreskin@aol.com

Rhubarb chutney

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: About 2 cups

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cups sliced rhubarb

1/4 cup each: brown sugar, orange juice

2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled

Salt

Pinch ground red pepper

1 Wilt: Warm butter over medium heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook soft, 10 minutes.

2 Stew: Reduce heat to medium-low. Add remaining ingredients and cook until tender and thick, 10-15 minutes.

3 Store: Pull out and discard ginger knob. Leave chutney chunky, or pulse smoother in the food processor. Store in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy with fish, pork or other summer pleasures.
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