Tag Archives: Fruit

Pavlova

I know, I know, I haven’t posted in a while. But I have a really good excuse: New Zealand.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you have a friend like Audrey, who gets it into her mind to gather a bunch of people together and jet off to New Zealand for two weeks. Why? Because we’re young, we’re unattached, we’re working good jobs with vacation time and enough money for plane tickets, and really, because why the hell not. So she marshaled an unruly group of nine of us, and masterminded an elaborate trip.

For two weeks we traveled most of the length of New Zealand’s north island, hopping from hostel to hostel on our way from Auckland to Wellington. And it was a fantasy. There were dense jungle-ish forests, and startling volcanic mountainsides, and psychedelic glowworm caves, and thermal hot springs in crayon colors, and beaches with jewel-green water, and all the glorious green rolling hills we’d hoped for, freckled with thousands of grazing sheep. We hiked and caved and walked and biked and Zorbed, and gorged ourselves on lamb and quiche and pastries and excellent white wine. I still haven’t fully processed it all–it was a fourteen-day sensory overload.

It was also rich kitchen fodder. I’ve got pocketfuls and pocketfuls of ideas for new recipes to try, inspired by the food we ate and the wine we drank. But to start off, here’s something I made before we even left: a kiwi pavlova.

kiwi pavlova

This was my birthday cake of sorts, for a party the day before our flight to Auckland. I made it to be shamelessly thematic, since pavlovas were supposedly invented in New Zealand (or Australia, depending on whose side you take). It was named after the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and created as a way of embodying her delicacy and airiness in culinary form. It’s not especially popular in America–in fact, I’d never even heard of it until I decided to make one for myself. And now that I have, I’m totally confused, because pavlova is utterly divine.

So what is it, exactly? Think of it as a sort of meringue cake: a big crackly disc of meringue, slathered with whipped cream and studded with fresh fruit. The meringue for a pavlova is fortified with cornstarch and vinegar, which gives it a texture that I can only describe as “dreamy.” The outside is shatteringly thin and crisp, while the inside is spongy and light–like a marshmallow, only softer and more delicate. I take a tip from Nigella Lawson and flip my meringue upside down, so that the softer side that was next to the baking sheet is on top. That way, the bottom and sides keep all their crackly texture, and the whipped cream melds with the top of the meringue to produce the perfect creamy-chewy bite. It also hides a multitude of sins, since pavlovas have a tendency to crack and shatter all over the moment you touch them.

When it comes to topping a pavlova, the tradition is whipped cream and passionfruit pulp. But since passionfruits are impossible to come by in Northern California, I topped my pavlova with sliced kiwis instead. (I am nothing if not committed to a theme.) Any number of sliced fresh fruits or berries would work here, as would a healthy dollop of citrus curd swirled into the whipped cream. Really, the only important thing is that you choose a fruit that has some tartness to it, to balance the sugary meringue and the fatty cream.

kiwi pavlova sliced

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Food of the gods

I’m a sucker for a good theme party. Fortunately, my friends throw good theme parties.

Like, for example, a Greek gods party. With togas and garlands and grapes and more grapes. It was glorious. We all lounged around in the silliest, cleverest costumes we could think of, and drank wine and grilled meat and then changed into swimsuits and played tag in the pool. We were also encouraged to bring thematically-appropriate food. Which I did. And, apparently, went a little retro to boot.

I’d been seeing recipes around for green goddess dip, and this seemed like the perfect party to test it out at. Green goddess dip is in fact an adaptation of green goddess dressing, which was invented in the kitchens of a fancy hotel in the 1920’s (in San Francisco, I believe!). It’s got a slight head-scratcher of an ingredients list: mayonnaise, sour cream, tarragon, chives, chervil or parsley, lemon juice, and anchovy. The combination of aggressive herbal brightness and luxe creaminess must have been a stunner back in the bootleggers’ days, but I wanted to find a way to lighten it some. The solution? Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and a big ripe avocado in place of the mayonnaise. Not only did the avocado make the dip insanely buttery and thick, but it also turned it science-fiction green. A green green goddess dip, indeed.

I didn’t have high hopes for this one; it was mostly for the ha-ha of the name and the theme of the party. But man, was this a huge hit. The combination was unusual and immensely satisfying: the cool milky smoothness of the yogurt and avocado against the pale oniony chives, light licorice tarragon, leafy parsley, and just the faintest whisper of salt from the anchovies. We started out with carrot sticks, then migrated to tortilla chips, and by the end of the party I was swabbing out the dregs from the bowl with my finger. I have no regrets.

green goddess dip

Since this was a party of the gods, I also wanted to try my hand at the food of the gods: ambrosia. There is such a thing as ambrosia salad, a throwback to the days when processed foods were new and exciting. It’s like a fruit salad with the sugar and chemicals turned up to 11: canned pineapple, canned mandarin orange, mini marshmallows, flaked coconut, maraschino cherries, premade whipped topping or sour cream or both. I’ve had ambrosia salad. It’s…not my thing. But I knew there was a hint of something amazing underneath all of that. And August, with its absolute abundance of stone fruit, is just the right time for a creamy fruit salad. Which is really what ambrosia salad is.

I suppose I shouldn’t really call this ambrosia salad, since it has none of the requisite ingredients. What it does have are fresh peaches, plums, and cherries, tossed in a dressing of thickened coconut milk, lime, mint, and vanilla. Toss it in the fridge for a couple hours–it gets better the longer it sits–and serve it chilled from a big bowl. The juices from the fruit mingle with the rich coconut-sweet glaze, making it nearly impossible to stop eating chunks of fruit straight from the bowl with your fingers. (At least, if you’re me.) Ambrosia salad, it’s not; but ambrosia, it just might be.

stone fruit ambrosia

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Ice ice baby

Happy Fourth of July! Looks like summer has finally arrived, and with a vengeance. It is HOT, you guys.

I love summer, but getting through these days usually involves a little suffering. Yesterday I went outside for a half-hour trip to the farmer’s market, and spent the rest of the morning with sweat pooled in my hair and dripping slowly down my temples. I went over to Kate’s place for a visit, and her two dogs were huffing and puffing and panting like I’ve never seen them do before. It was mighty tempting to flop down on the floor and pant right along with them.

So what’s a girl to do, when the sky is unfathomable blue but the sun is scorching?

Make granita, obviously.

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Ah, summer

You know, if I were in a more articulate frame of mind, today would be a great day to exercise my eloquence-muscle and use this little blog o’ mine to sing the praises of seasonal summer cooking.

But today is also a rain-soaked Tuesday, and I’m a working stiff in every sense–sleep-deprived and body-sore and generally about as lucid as an owl full of schnapps. So here’s all the eloquence I can muster right now:

IT’S NECTARINE SEASON. FINALLY.

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