Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rhubarb and Cherry Pavlova and Collins Cocktail

I love rhubarb, it makes my heart go pitter patter and my taste buds jump in excitement. It is one vegetable which will always stop me in my tracks. Pink and green stalks so sour I pucker and then go in for more. I have even seen little toddlers sucking at the raw stalks, shocked by the sourness but going back for more and more tastes of the confounding rhubarb. Science should check this stuff out, its wild.
Rhubarb to be cooked with sweet cherries and honey.

Years ago I started adding less and less sugar to my rhubarb dishes. The tart part is the big fun, I prefer to add other fruits to increase the sweetness rather than overwhelm it with sugar. 

I am lucky to live near by several friends with too much rhubarb to count. Like rhubarb and rhubarb and more rhubarb hidden around the corner. I always put some in the freezer, and I will make jam in a few weeks when the plants are really full in early June.

Meringue pavlova before baking.
Pavlova is an enormous meringue, shared by many people. You can make it neat and tidy like a short cake layer, or you can make them wild and lumpy like clouds. Mine falls somewhere in between, it is round, so gets a point for neat and tidy, but has a wavy top, which gives more surface area to become crunchy. Love!

I was in a little Swiss village on the French border a few years ago and I remember stopping in front of a pastry shop window in the afternoon sun. An entire shelf in the window was filled with pavlovas. Satin clouds piled on one another, weightless and shimmering in the sun. I didn't buy one, but if I had, I would have put this cherry and rhubarb compote on top.

Sometimes rhubarb makes my tongue all fuzzy and tingly, especially if i eat a lot of it. Grapefruits can do the same thing to me, like anything I eat afterwards tastes silly. Does that happen to other people too?

Pavlova (4 servings)

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on high until foamy. Slowly add the sugar, sprinkle a bit if it at a time down the side of the bowl, this may take 2 or 3 minutes in a kitchenaid. 

Pavlova with stewed cherry and rhubarb 
Watch as the whites struggle to puff up, and then all the sudden they take on a satin marshmallow quality and become voluminous. They will rise up in the bowl, taking up more volume, and the tracks the whisk leaves will become more and more pronounced. Test to see if it holds a peak.

If the whites are over whipped, they will deflate, so the goal is to catch them at the magic moment. Scoop them out of the bowl onto parchment paper or a Silpat. Make a big mound of the meringue, use a spatula or spoon to move it into a rough circle shape.

Bake in a 200° oven for an hour if you like a very marshmallow center, or up to 2 hours for a more dry meringue. 

*If I am cooking other things in the oven at high temperatures, when they are done, I turn off my oven and put in the meringues. It will often hold enough heat to get the whole job done.
** you can make the meringue and put it in the fridge for a while until you are ready to bake it.

Rhubarb and Cherry Compote

about 6 stalks of rhubarb
1 cup sweet cherries (frozen OK!)
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup cherry juice (or orange)

Wash and chop the rhubarb into 1-2 inch pieces. Place it in a saucepan with the honey, juice and cherries. The juice adds some sweetness and liquid to begin the cooking process of the rhubarb. 

Simmer it on medium heat for about 20 minutes so the rhubarb breaks down. Taste, and add sugar if you need to, but if you will serve it with the pavlova, the meringue adds most or all the sweetness you crave. 

Rhubarb Cherry Collins Cocktail

Rhubarb and Cherry Collins

1 ounce rhubarb and cherry compote
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces gin (or tequila)
about 3 ounces soda water to top off

Mix rhubarb compote, lemon juice and gin (or tequila) in a shaker with lots of ice. Shake it up like crazy, and strain into a highball glass. Top off with soda water. Add one of the cherries from the compote to garnish the drink.

This refreshing sweet and sour cocktail is yummy and bright pink. We were divided on weather the gin or tequila version was the better one, so you will have to try them for yourselves and let me know!

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