Thursday, August 07, 2008

Still have access to fresh strawberries and rhubarb?

Fresh, light and filling, without feeling stuffed to the brim... that's the best way I think I can describe how dinner and our dessert felt tonight. I could start with dinner, but this Meringue-Topped Strawberries and Rhubarb dish I made for dessert was much more fun!

Underneath a fluffy layer of airy meringue are chunks of rhubarb and fresh strawberries. As the rhubarb is much more fibrous than the strawberries, the ruby stalks are gently stewed in their own juices in a few individual ramekins. To take an edge off the tartness, the rhubarb is first tossed with granulated sugar and for a mysterious tingle on the tongue, a bit of grated fresh ginger is added to the mix. Besides sweetening the rhubarb, the sugar helps cajole the juice from the sturdy stalks, leaving them tender and soft. Once the pieces reach this point, hunks of fresh strawberries are tucked in between the rhubarb and left to sit while you whip up the meringue.

The meringue is a simple combination of egg whites, cream of tartar and granulated sugar. To get the best volume for your buck, you'll want the whites to be at room temperature with the bowl and beaters sparkling clean. I know not all meringue recipes call for cream of tartar, but I like to add it just for that extra dose of stabilization. Once the whites were firm, glossy and held peaks, we added dollops of the light-as-a-feather topping over the juicy pieces of berries and rhubarb. You could spread the meringue smooth on top if you like, but to give some visual interest, we used a small off-set spatula to create small spikes and peaks on top. If you have a handy kitchen torch on hand, feel free to brown the meringue away with that... I don't, so we just stuck the ramekins back into the oven and let the heat inside work it's magic. Either warm from the oven or served at room temperature, this refreshing dessert is one way to take advantage of the gorgeous berries and rhubarb before they begin to vanish from the markets! PS - The egg whites do not get fully cooked using this method of creating the meringue, so if that concerns you at all, feel free to use a pasteurized egg or even those dried egg whites commonly found in the baking isle of your local market.

Just because I talked about that dessert first, doesn't mean that this healthy Whole Wheat Fusilli with Pistachio Pesto we had before that was any less tasty. I know... another basil recipe - surprise! I can't help it as the plants are shooting up like no-one's business with this beautiful weather we have been having!

While you are left with having to clean up the food processor afterwards, the speed that this pasta dish comes together makes up for it! As we waited for the corkscrew pasta to cook, we dirtied up our food processor with a twist on pesto. While I love using buttery pine nuts, this recipe calls for the use of toasted nutty pistachios instead! I've used walnuts and almonds before with successful results, but the depth the pistachios added was a nice touch.

The pesto is a little lighter since it isn't as heavy on olive oil as some, but if you prefer it to be a touch more oily, you could certainly bump that amount up. Because of this, the pesto is fairly thick... however, a bit of the starchy cooking liquid from the cooked pasta will thin the sauce out without giving it a watered-down flavor. For a burst of raw freshness, halved cherry tomatoes also receive the pleasure of being tossed into the pesto and pasta. To add another punch of pistachio, crunchy chopped pieces are scattered on top as the finishing touch to this speedy dinner.


  1. Joe, you are a GENIUS!!!! Guess what we'll be having for dinner tonight?? That whole wheat fusilli with pistachio pesto is to die-for and I know it'll be a big hit with my Sweet Hubby!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  2. You always provide such wonderful inspirations! Lemon basil, pistachio, cherry tomatoes, everything is on hand, only need to get some small pasta.

    Recently I also tried a few things based on some of your other recipes like grilled peach salad, and goat cheese dressing. All good.

  3. Wow Joe. I'm impressed. This is such a great meal altogether.