I love Croatia. I think I’ve established that. The scenery is divine. The food is delicious. The people are friendly. But that doesn’t mean I can’t find at least a couple things to complain about… The endless superstitions (everyone knows that sitting on cement is what makes you barren, and heaven forbid you get caught in a draft). The enormous flock of pigeons inhabiting the main square (and who are hell bent on preventing me from getting to the market each weekend). And, probably most importantly, the lack of rhubarb. How can you make a rhubarb pavlova without rhubarb?
Our lack of rhubarb (and garden space) in Croatia has led me to take drastic measures, and I have been known to stuff my suitcase full of this delightfully tart vegetable (?) every time I encounter it. What’s the big deal? Who needs rhubarb in a land of figs anyways? It probably comes from growing up in Alaska, where our growing season was *ahem* short and the cool climate lent itself perfectly to rhubarb and, somewhat surprisingly, wild strawberries. My grandma was the queen of strawberry rhubarb pie and to this day it is my absolute favorite. One of the great things about rhubarb (besides its marriage to strawberries in the world’s most perfect pie) is that it can easily be frozen…perpetuating my suitcase stuffing habit.
Recently, I found myself with a whole lot of rhubarb, and was looking for something a little more elegant than pie. I settled on individual rhubarb pavlovas. I was never really a meringue fan, until I visited Aux Merveilleux de Fred the last time we were in Paris. I was enchanted by the hands in the window piping meringue onto baking sheets and then using them to make a Chantilly cream sandwich. After just one bite I was hooked.
That’s how I landed here–whipping egg whites to accompany my contraband (not really) rhubarb in an attempt to *elegantly* satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. The result? Delicious, but not pretty. Turns out that green rhubarb makes a pretty unappealing looking sauce, so I had to dress it up with a few strawberries. The recipe is pretty basic but
- 4 egg whites
- 1 TBS cornstarch
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped rhubarb
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup chopped strawberries (optional)
- whipped cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
- Add egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle cornstarch over the egg whites and keep mixing for another 30 seconds. Once the egg whites are white and foamy, increase the speed to high and gradually add one cup sugar.
- Continue beating until stiff, shiny peaks form. Add the lemon juice and vanilla.
- Drop heaping spoonfuls of meringue onto the baking sheet. Use the back of a spoon to spread the meringue into a disk with a slight dip in the middle. I like to make them about palm sized, but smaller meringues can also work nicely.
- Bake until the meringues are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes.
- While the meringues are in the oven, add the rhubarb and strawberries (if using) to a small sauce pan with 1/2 cup sugar. Heat on low, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb starts to break down.
- Once the rhubarb sauce is cool, top each meringue with a spoonful of rhubarb sauce, a dollop of whipped cream, and an additional meringue. Continue with another spoonful of rhubarb and top with whipped cream. Serve immediately.