Thank you to California Grown for encouraging me to connect with California growers and encouraging California consumers to “Choose California Grown” when they can.
There’s no denying December is a busy month full of parties and celebrations. For Sam and me, the usual Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties are complemented by two other occasions—his birthday and our anniversary. In the span of ten days, we celebrate four major events, and each major event calls for a special dessert. This year, for one of those events, we’ll be eating Kiwi Pomegranate Pavlovas.
Pavlovas, the national dessert of New Zealand, are meringue nests filled with pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit. Spring and summer pavlovas are delicious topped with fresh blackberries, raspberries and peaches, but in wintertime, sliced kiwis and pomegranate seeds are my topping of choice. Each pavlova is an elegant (and delicious!) still life, created not with paints but with drifts of snowy-white meringue, rich pastry cream, jewel-like pomegranate seeds and vibrant kiwi slices.
You probably knew that pomegranates are a winter fruit, but did you know kiwis are a winter fruit too? The kiwi season actually extends from October to May, making it an ideal fruit to cook with once the summer fruit bounty winds to a close. Last week I received a box of beautiful kiwis from a California kiwi grower in Gridley, which is just south of Chico. The kiwi vineyard where my kiwis were grown is a family business operated by a father and son. Since establishing their 20-acre kiwi vineyard in 1994, their vineyard has grown to 300 acres. Kiwis are growing in popularity, and if you ask me, that’s no surprise given their delicious, tart taste and density of nutrients. Check out this video to learn more about the growers who grew my kiwis and to see what a kiwi vineyard looks like.
While researching kiwi recipes, I also learned a bit about the kiwi’s history. Grown for hundreds of years in China, kiwis were introduced to New Zealand in early 20th century and called Chinese gooseberries. When kiwis were first planted in the United States in the 1960s, their name was changed from Chinese gooseberry to kiwifruit, after the New Zealand kiwi bird they resemble. Their popularity in the United States surged in the 70s and 80s, and today they’re not difficult to find. California is the largest producer of kiwis in the United States, growing 98% of the country’s kiwis. As a California resident, I value buying California produce because it supports the state’s farmers and economy. Buying California produce is also a more sustainable choice than buying produce from South or Central America because the produce doesn’t have to travel as far to reach my local market. The blue CA Grown label is an obvious indication that produce was grown in California, but even if you don’t see the sticker, you can ask your grocer whether it was grown in California.
Here are a few more interesting kiwi facts:
- Kiwis are part of the berry family.
- Kiwis grow on vines, not trees.
- Kiwis have twice as much vitamin C as an orange, as much potassium as a banana and more fiber than a bowl of whole-grain cereal. That’s what I call a superfruit!
And this only scratches the surface of all there is to learn about kiwis. Check out the CA Grown website to learn more about California kiwis.
Kiwi Pomegranate Pavlovas
If you’re not familiar with making meringues, check out this video to learn about the stages of whipped egg whites. The pavlovas are best the day they are made, but you could do some of the work the day before: (1) make the meringues and store them in an airtight container and (2) make the pastry cream but don’t fold in the whipped cream until you’re ready to serve them.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com.
For Meringue Nests:
4 large egg whites (reserve yolks for pastry cream), at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup superfine granulated sugar (or blend granulated sugar in food processor)
For Pastry Cream Filling:
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
For Fruit Topping:
8 to 10 kiwifruit (1 1/2 lbs.), peeled and sliced into half- moons
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
Make the Meringue Nests
Preheat oven to 200°F. (My oven only goes as low as 275°F, so I used this temp and cooked the meringues for shorter period of time.) Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites on low speed until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is glossy. Gently fold in remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
Gently scoop meringue batter onto baking sheets, forming five 4-inch wide nests on each sheet. Use an offset spatula to form a 3-inch indentation in each nest and smooth any peaks that might burn while baking.
Place the meringues in the oven, prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon and bake meringues for 2 1/2 hours or until dry and crisp. (I cooked my meringues at 275°F for 2 hours.) Turn off the oven, but leave meringues in oven with door propped oven for one hour to further dry them out.
Make the Pastry Cream Filling
Combine the flour, cornstarch, two tablespoons of the sugar and pinch of salt in a medium glass bowl. Whisk the egg yolks together in small bowl, then add the egg yolks to the flour mixture, whisking well.
Heat the milk and remaining two tablespoons sugar in a two-quart saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly to incorporate sugar as it dissolves. When the milk just begins to boil, pour half of it into the yolk-flour mixture. Stir constantly to avoid lumps. Pour the hot yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk and stir constantly for two minutes or until pastry cream thickens. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Refrigerate until cool, at least two hours.
An hour before assembling the meringues, remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator and stir to loosen. Whip the heavy cream to barely stiff peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gently fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream. Chill for 30 more minutes.
Assemble the Pavlovas
Place a meringue nest on each dessert plate and fill with three tablespoons of pastry cream. Top with kiwi slices and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Thank you again to California Grown for sponsoring this blog post. Please click here to learn more about all of California Grown growers. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions are my own. #CleverCAGrown #spon