Saturday, May 18, 2013

Strawberry Pavlova

This is what we served for dessert for Mother's Day.  Light and airy, melt-in-your-mouth pavlova with organic strawberries in balsamic vinegar and honey.  The perfect ending to any meal.

Pavlova was created in the 1920's by an Australian chef in honor of a visit by famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.  It is a meringue-based confection topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit.  The meringue is made with a small amount of vinegar which keeps the meringue soft like a marshmallow.

The combination of soft meringue fruit and cream is incredible.  It is incredibly light and incredibly delicious.  Best of all Pavlova has a very short shelf life and needs to be entirely consumed shortly after it is assembled or it will begin to disintegrate.  I have never had a problem with asking my guests to help finish the Pavlova, they are always happy to oblige!

Strawberry Pavlova
serves 8

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 Tsp corn starch
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup heavy cream
3 Tbsp powdered sugar

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 175F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the egg whites until frothy.  With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar.  Continue to whip until a very stiff and glossy meringue is formed.

Sift cornstarch over meringue and fold in until well mixed.  Add vinegar and vanilla and fold until combined.

Trace an 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread meringue into a disc on the parchment paper.

Bake for 2 hours, then turn off oven and let meringue set in oven for an additional hour.

Place meringue in an airtight container until ready to serve.

In a cold bowl combine heavy cream and powdered sugar and whip until fluffy and stiff.  Spread cream over meringue.

In a separate bowl combine berries, vinegar and honey and toss to combine.  Spoon berries over the cream.

Serve immediately.

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini

This year for mother's day we decided to make a light menu featuring some mediterranean favorites.  We served oven roasted red snapper with caponata on a bed of pancetta-flavored home-grown swiss chard , strawberry belinis and for an appetizer these beautiful little arancini.

I have to say that Italian food is probably my very favorite cuisine.  It can be rustic and yet sophisticated, light, yet hearty and always loaded with flavor.  This appetizer is the perfect example.

Arancini (little oranges) are balls of risotto that are stuffed with meat or cheese, rolled in bread crumbs and quickly fried.  They are the perfect way to use up left over risotto, though I find more times than not I end up making risotto only for the purpose of making arancini.  They are time-consuming to make and are truly a labor of love so I only make them about once a year for special occasions so I don't need to worry about the fact that they are deep fried!

You can make arancini with any kind of risotto you like, but I must admit this recipe is one of my all time favorites.  A delicate and fragrant artichoke and lemon risotto stuffed with marinated mozarella cheese.  The result is a crunchy ball of delicious risotto oozing with melted cheese.  YUM.  This is an indulgence so go ahead and enjoy in moderation!

Lemon and Artichoke Arancini
makes 12

For the Risotto:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock, brought to a simmer
2 - 15 oz. cans artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of one large lemon

In a large non-stick skillet heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add rice and toss over medium high heat to coat with oil until grains begin to turn opaque.  Add garlic and wine and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Add simmering vergetable stock, a ladle at a time to the rice, stirring constantly until mixture is almost dry before adding more stock.  Continue this process until all the stock is used and the rice is creamy and al dente.

Remove from heat.

Add artichokes, salt , pepper, butter, parmesan and lemon zest to rice and stir until mixed.  Transfer to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and cool completely.  Can be prepared 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated.

For the Arancini :
12 small chunks of mozzarella cheese

1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 - 3 cups panko bread crumbs

Oil for deep frying

Scoop about 1/4 cup of cold risotto into the palm of your hand and flatten to a disc.

Place a piece of mozzarella cheese in the center of the rice and bring rice up around cheese, squeezing and rolling gently to encase cheese inside a ball of risotto.

Roll the ball in flour, then cover in beaten egg and lastly roll in panko bread crumbs.  Keep in an airtight container until ready to fry (can be prepared 1 day ahead and kept refrigerated).

Preheat oil to 375 F.  Fry arancini, a few at a time, until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes).  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot.