Curran turns one next week and it brings with it a New Year’s sort of feeling - reflecting back on all that’s happened and what has changed; how I have changed. This time last year, I was waiting for this big thing to happen to me - to have a baby - which sounds so common place from the outside, lots of people have babies, but unbelievably remarkable and life changing in the scope of one’s own life. I felt prepared in the way two dozen washed and folded swaddles, a few different diaper rash creams, and reading multiple perspectives on the birth process can make you feel, but looking back, I truly had no idea what was coming. In learning to become a parent this past year, I’ve been blindsided by some aspects, and in others, beautifully surprised in a way that only happens when you don't know what's coming. I’ve been depleted beyond what I used to think the word depleted could mean and in turn, sometimes the very next moment, my heart has swelled beyond the known side of that end of the spectrum, as well. In one moment, a screaming baby waking from another all too short nap (despite all the will and desire to help him find a schedule) just when I thought I might actually be able to get a few things done, followed by cracking open the door to see his cries turn to his squinty-eyed, gap-toothed grin. No one has ever been so happy to see me. It's enough to make me teary. Hugh and I have so much less intentional time together that I miss him some days even when we're in the same house, but seeing how he loves our boy has made me fall deeper in love with the kind and fun man he is. I feel a bit less like myself and yet somehow more confident in what I am capable of. I am learning to say no sometimes, paring down to focus on what I want my work to look like, and trying to be ok with just sitting and reading Hop on Pop a dozen times over while my other responsibilities wait.
Curran is an active little person, but every now and then, he'll lay his head on me for split second, just to remind me that he sees me even though he has no desire to sit, and I can't imagine a life any different.
May is the month of birthdays in our family. Both sides. There are at least two per week and thus there is a lot of celebrating. In honor of all the birthdays, and to mark our first year of having Curran around, I made pavlova. Crisp meringue with crunchy pistachios, a light whipped cream with ribbons of tart and sweet rhubarb and strawberries. A classic combination for very good reason. It is so delicate in texture while still being plenty sweet and rich with cream to qualify as a celebratory dessert. I will be honest that I only seem to get the meringue right half of the time, but when I do, this may be in my top five desserts.
So cheers, to the boy that changed our life. Happy birthday, my baby.
PISTACHIO PAVLOVA WITH STRAWBERRY + RHUBARB CREAM
Adapated from Food + Wine Magazine June 2015 from Gesine Bullock-Prado
Since the natural cane sugar is off white, the pavlova will be a creamy white color instead of the bright white you see in magazines. This makes no difference to the flavor, just the aesthetics. I tried to make this with less sugar and it does not work - it just doesn't crisp up well and tastes like egg, so make this if you're feeling like a treat and have people to share it with. The science doesn't work if you change the ratio. Sarah shares her Swiss meringue method here which sounds delightful. Also, if you need something dairy-free, swap out the whipping cream for a coconut cream.
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup natural cane sugar
- 1/2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
- 3/4 cup pistachios
- 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb, one-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
- 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (8 fl. ounces) light whipping cream, chilled
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- toasted pistachios, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350' and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on high until foamy, about two minutes. Beat in the vinegar, then beat in the sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
In a small bowl, toss the pistachios in the cornstarch and then gently fold them into the egg white mixture. Use a large spoon and dollop the meringue into the center of the pachment and spread it into a 10-inch round with a slight indentation in the center. Turn the oven down to 225' and bake for 1 1/2 hours until crisp. It should be crisp but still chewy on the inside. Turn off the oven and allow it to cool completely in the oven.
Meanwhile, make the strawberry rhubarb cream. In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb, lemon juice, sugar over moderate heat until the rhubarb breaks down a bit, about 6-8 minutes. Mash the rhubarb a bit with the back of a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and stir in the strawberries and vanilla. Let it cool completely.
Into a mixer, beat the cold whippng cream and mascarpone until light and fluffy. Stir 1/4 cup of the cream into the rhubarb mixture, then fold in the rest of the whipping cream (only a few folds, you want it streaky). Spoon the cream into the center of the meringue and garnish with chopped pistachios.
The meringue can be made a day or two in advance and the cream prepared when you are ready to serve the pavlova. It is best served the day it is made.