Pavlova with Gingered Rhubarb Curd and Strawberries

At long last, spring has sprung. It is finally warming up around these parts and you know what that means: rhubarb. Well, at least that's what I get excited about when the sun starts shining again after a long winter. I'm sorry to say that the barb I used for this recipe wasn't local, but I just could not wait any longer. As soon as I saw these greenhouse specimens at my favorite little produce stand I pounced. Then I sliced and simmered and enriched it with egg yolks and butter and was left with the dreamiest tangerine colored curd you ever did meet. I decided to use it to put my own spin on the Aussie classic, pavlova, so I lightened my curd with a bit of whipped cream before pouring it into a pillowy meringue shell and topping it with fresh, sliced strawberries. The end result is light and delicious and a wonderful way to welcome the season. If you don't feel like going the distance and making the whole pavlova do try to make this rhubarb curd at least once this spring, it is really fantastic and unlike any curd I've ever tried. 

For the Meringue 
adapted from Gourmet

1c superfine granulated sugar
1T cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature
3T cold water
1t distilled white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 300 with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
3. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.
4. Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 Tbsp at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.
5. Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).
6. Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the “crater” is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

For the Gingered Rhubarb Curd 

3/4 pounds rhubarb (about 6 stalks)
1 inch piece of peeled ginger
1/4c water
1/4c sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2c sugar
zest from one lemon
2t lemon juice
3T butter, cut into chunks

1. Wash rhubarb and trim as little off the ends as possible. Cut rhubarb and ginger into 1-inch chunks. 
2. In a small saucepan, heat rhubarb, ginger, 1/4c sugar, and water. Cook on medium heat until the rhubarb falls apart and there are no whole pieces left, adding water by the tablespoon if rhubarb sticks to the bottom of the pan. 
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, then put through a fine mesh sieve over a clean bowl 
4. Put egg yolks, butter, remaining sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a double boiler and whisk to combine. When the sugar has dissolved, add the rhubarb puree by the spoonful, to temper the eggs. Continue stirring the mixture with a rubber spatula over the double boiler until it thickens, about 5 min.
5. Remove from heat and strain the curd to remove any lumps. Cover the curd with plastic wrap and chill completely before using.

yield about 2 cups, you may want to make extra because it is crazy good

To Assemble the Pavlova

1lb washed, hulled and sliced strawberries
1 c heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

1. Fold about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the rhubarb curd, then fill the meringue with the mixture and top with sliced strawberries. Serve additional whipped cream on the side.