Pomegranate Anise Pavlova with Molasses Pomegranate Curd (V)

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I had a physical therapy appointment a few days ago; my recovery is going relatively smoothly, but I still check in with my therapist weekly to address anything that gives me problems and track my progress. For those who aren’t aware, my body is a bit of an anomaly, even in the ballet community. The joints of my feet and ankles in particular are built in a way that allows for extreme hyper-mobility. Sounds great for dance, right? You aren’t totally incorrect. My genetically hyper-extended knees and bendy feet are the ideal look that all ballet dancers aspire to have. But this body type is also very difficult to strengthen and very, very prone to injury. I’ve rolled my ankles more times in my life than I can count, strains around my metatarsals are nothing unusual, and there are the two stress fractures, of course. With the gift of these limbs comes responsibility, essentially.

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To guide me in this responsibility is my physical therapist, one of the most dedicated, generous individuals I’ve met in the field. No matter how many questions I have about new pain, lingering concerns, or random bad days, she is ready to answer me kindly and thoroughly (and believe me, I never have a shortage of questions). Last time I saw her, we discussed some pain I was getting near the joint of my big toe; this week I explained some back and knee issues. With every detail I relay–usually with increasing anxiety– she responds with calm analysis and offers a solution. Never once have I left an appointment feeling that I wasn’t heard, or that my concerns were without value.

Because of the chronic weakness/instability I battle in my joints, each plan for addressing problems that I encounter usually involves a series of exercises.  And when there always seems to be some part of my body that doesn’t want to function just right, the ever-growing list of physical therapy “homework” that perpetually runs through my mind can become quite overwhelming. I have no doubts that I could occupy the bulk of an entire day with the exercise regimen I’ve accumulated over the years, so the task of planning the best way I can divvy up the work sometimes leaves me exhausted before I even start.

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I’ve spoken before about the beauty of meringues. Disclaimer: the meringue metaphors are back. So many recent milestones through my recovery have left me feeling full and joyful, like a freshly whipped meringue ballooning up through the bowl: finally moving off the barre. Getting to jump, really jump, again. Finishing my first full class on pointe. Of course the journey back from injury is never smooth, though. If even a minuscule bit of anything greasy comes in contact with the bowl or whisk when making meringue, the voluminous product I hoped for becomes a sloppy mess. When I allow my focus to shift away from my victories and to the massive amount of progress to be made, I can sometimes catch myself deflating like a failed meringue. So many people I know struggle with this, too. No matter how joyful and airy someone can seem, there’s likely a spot of grease in their bowl that can weigh them down in a second if it gets too close.IMG_6754

That’s why I so adamantly endorse the celebration of “little victories,” as the cliche goes. Seeing my physical therapist’s smile of approval when she informs me that my strength measures have increased again or receiving a compliment from someone in class about my turns has the power to wipe away the grease of all the things wrong with my body and my recovery that are threatening to destroy my meringue. So, whenever you notice something you think deserves an affirmation, affirm away! It’s rare that you’ll know just how impactful your gesture could be for the other person. To the many people who have done this for me, I thank you; you are part of the reason I am able to keep up my meringue morale.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

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Pomegranate Pavlova

Ingredients

MERINGUE

  • aquafaba from 1 can of chickpeas (my can was 15.5 oz.)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp anise extract

FILLING

  • 1.5 cups pomegranate seeds (about 1 large pomegranate)
  • 3 TBSP cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 TBSP molasses
  • 2 TBSP cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted
  • 2 TBSP almond milk

TOPPING

  • vegan whipped cream
  • more fresh pomegranate seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw two 6″-8″ circles lightly on the paper.
  2. Place aquafaba in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, and begin whisking on high speed. Add cream of tartar after about 10 seconds when aquafaba is foamy.
  3. When mixture becomes white and starts to increase in volume, begin adding sugar a little at a time with the mixer still running until all of it is incorporated.
  4. Continue whisking until meringue forms stiff, glossy peaks. Flip bowl upside down to check if it’s ready if you’re brave!
  5. Add in anise extract, and allow to mix in thoroughly (don’t worry about over-mixing, aquafaba won’t act the same as egg whites).
  6. Spoon meringue onto baking sheet into the two circles and gently spread it to the edges of each.
  7. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until outsides of meringue are completely hardened. Turn oven off, prop open door with oven mitt, and leave meringues in oven for another hour.
  8. Make filling: pulse pomegranate seeds in food processor/Nutribullet/chopper until liquid. Strain to remove seeds. You should be left with about 1/2 cup juice.
  9. Combine water and cornstarch in a saucepan. Whisk in pomegranate juice, sugar, and molasses.
  10. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until thickened. (This will happen very quickly just as mixture is about to boil).
  11. When mixture thickens, immediately remove from heat and stir in almond milk and melted shortening until completely smooth. Allow to cool and keep in sealed container in fridge until ready to use.
  12. Assemble pavlova: Spread filling, whipped cream, and fresh pomegranate seeds on the first layer of meringue. Top with second meringue, and top with remaining seeds, whipped cream, and filling.

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