Summer Fruit Pavlova

I have a lot of cookbooks.  Some people might consider that an understatement, especially my husband, who has hauled them from house to house a ridiculous number of times, but I feel like I can never have enough.  I sleep with cookbooks piled by my bed, dreaming of aioli and brioche, gelato and soffrito. I have spent many hours in deep conversation stove-side with M.F.K. Fisher, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Judy Rodgers, Suzanne Goin, and more.  Cookbook authors and chefs have been my mentors, teachers, and colleagues.  I have traveled with Naomi Dugid and Jeffrey Alford to Asia, learned how to bake bread from Nancy Silverton; Mario Batali has whispered his polenta secrets in my ear.  Cookbooks took the place of cooking school, and they have fueled my passion for food through countless family meals and nightly specials.  Take any one of my books off the shelf and the pages fall open, sticky with sugar and egg on my favorite recipe for banana bread or splattered with tomato sauce on the best bolognese recipe ever.  For the past month or so, we have been living in a (pretty fabulous) “temporary” place, and all my cookbooks are packed away, out of reach.  I’m not a big recipe follower, so I had no idea how much I would miss them for ideas and inspiration, enlightenment and expertise.  In fact, I feel a little adrift.  I’ve always thought of food as narrative–what we eat tells the story of who we are, where we come from, the life we want to live.  For me it isn’t just dinner, but another chapter in the story of my life, a story I share with the people I love, with my community.  All these books that I’ve read cover to cover connect me to that narrative, define who I am.  The spiral bound Many Hands Cooking began the story.  A Christmas gift the year I turned seven, its illustrations of children from all over the world made me feel cosmopolitan and worldly and connected to the larger world through food.  Later on, I read Roy Andries De Groot’s The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth and saw that a cookbook could capture a very specific time and place.  To this day, when anybody mentions Chartreuse, I have to stop myself from saying, I’ve been there. Edna Lewis’s A Taste of Country Cooking followed, then Sam & Sam Clark’s Moro East and The River Cottage Books.  I fell in love with books about homesteading, growing food, canning, preserving, curing.  I loved the idea that I could create a life of quality, with every tiny detail becoming more connected to this land that feeds us.  Food always tells a story–there’s human narrative in every GMO factory-produced corn chip, every heirloom tomato planted and harvested by a hand that you know.  Every bite represents epic, Shakespearean greed or love or determination, human cruelty or the rebirth of hope.  My cookbooks are really guidebooks about living.  Thomas called yesterday to tell me that it would be another month before we could get into our new house.  My silence must have been expressive, but anyway, he knows me better than anyone.  “I’ll bring you eight boxes from storage,” he said, and I could feel my life falling back into place.

Summer Fruit Pavlova

adapted from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors

3/4 c. sugar

2 tsp. cornstarch

4 egg whites, room temperature

pinch sea salt

1 tsp. cider vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. blackberries

3 small peaches

sugar for sprinkling fruit

1/2 c. cream

1/2 c. creme fraiche

2 Tbs. honey

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300.  Mix 1 Tbs. of sugar with cornstarch and set aside.  Beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the sugar a little at a time until thick and glossy.  Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture, then fold in vinegar and vanilla.  Make six mounds of meringue on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Using a large spoon, create a nest or bowl shape in each meringue.  Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and let them sit until cool.  Gently pry them off the paper and place on serving platter.  Gently wash berries and peaches.  Slice peaches and place in a bowl, then sprinkle with sugar.  Toss berries in carefully.  Whip cream and creme fraiche with honey and vanilla until it holds soft peaks.  Fill each meringue with whipped cream and top with fruit.  Serve right away.

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7 thoughts on “Summer Fruit Pavlova

  1. Elizabeth, I have never really read any of your blog entries until today. Your words are very inspiring and makes appreciate the story behind all the food we eat and the ingredients we put into our homecooked meals. Your love for cookbooks is understandable…especially considering the talent of the authors. Thanks for the enjoyable read!

  2. Wow. These look amazing. I’ve never had a pavlova before, but I’m assuming it’s a type of meringue? Looks like a fabulous recipe to top with the Fredericksburg peaches I’m seeing out in the markets these days.

    Hope your summer’s off to a good start – temporary housing notwithstanding. Need to get the girls together soon!

    C.

  3. My husband & I built a house…takes lots of patience, but definitely worth it in the end. He is an architect, and I gave him only 2 requirements: a BIG kitchen and my own bathroom. Not disappointed. But should have also asked for specific space for my cookbooks, which now number close to 100. 🙂

  4. I totally agree. I read my cookbooks like a novel when I first get them and use them mostly for inspiration, not for actually following the recipes. We really enjoy our River Cottage books, as well as “The Perfect Scoop”, “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen”, and “Tangy Tart Hot Sweet”.

    You need to write a Farmhouse Delivery cookbook! I feel like the aesthetic would be absolutely breathtaking.

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