Sunday, July 29, 2012

AcroYoga, BBQ, and Pavlova. Oh my!

 Beautiful day at Jarvis Beach

A gorgeous summer day and a friend's birthday seemed perfect reasons to head to the beach for AcroYoga! Jenny and I go way back to the 2nd grade.  We had lost touch, but reconnected through the magic of Facebook, and with Jenny's recent-ish relocation back to Chicago, I actually see her in person.  Jenny and her friend, Phil, teach a weekly AcroYoga class on Saturday mornings, at Jarvis beach when the weather is fine, and otherwise at the nearby Solarium.  Jenny and Phil are excellent teachers, check out their class if you're in Chicago.   Info can be found on Jenny's blog under "acro schedule."  Read Jenny's blog while you're there, where she details her fun bike adventures.

Getting organized

Jenny and Phil demonstrate "Sacrificial Virgin"

Class began with more traditional yoga poses for warm-up, introductions, and information sharing in regards to injuries and sensitivities.  AcroYoga really depends on honest and clear communication.  Then we worked in groups of two and three to practice inversions and moves like in the photo above.  I'm a newbie and dabbler with AcroYoga.  I enjoy the community aspect, learning new skills, and expanding my comfort zone (although that is the scariest part!).


After class there was a "jam," an informal practice and social time.  No jamming for this lady, I had weekend chores and pavlova to bake.  More on that later.  

Back at home, BBQ was in progress.  Adam was making it for the winner of a charity auction at work.  The employees both donated the prizes and bid.  The winner kindly invited us to share in the meal.  I offered to contribute dessert.

The set-up

The process starts a week ahead with a call to the butcher to reserve a pork butt (actually the shoulder) and a brisket (beef, chest area).  Admission - to this day I find meat cut identification befuddling.  In culinary school it was my weakest area.

The day of the smoking, Adam seasons the meats with a rub.  Into the smoker, it cooks slowly for about 14-15 hours.  For this meal to be ready for dinner, between cooking and resting, Adam put the meat in the smoker at 11 p.m. the night before.  During this time the smell of BBQ permeates the air.  Sorry next door neighbors!

Finished brisket (top) and pork butt (bottom)  (ha ha!)


Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named for the Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova.  It has a crisp exterior and a marshmallowy interior.  With some whipped cream and fruit, it makes a lovely summer dessert.  

bec d'oiseau ("bird's beak") - egg whites, salt, sugar,
cornstarch,and vinegar whipped to stiff peaks

Chocolate added, ready for the oven
Pavlova done, fruit prepped, assembly will be last minute

Ring the dinner bell, time to eat!
The feast
Meringue, whipped cream, fruit, and mint.  It was dark by dessert-time,
photo illumination provided by camera flash and iPhone flashlight feature.  

The fine weather carried into the evening.  Serenaded by cicadas, the meal was complete with good company and cold beverages.

Wishing you oodles of summertime fun!  Recipe for Chocolate Pavlova below.


Chocolate Pavlova
from Short + Sweet by Gale Gand
Makes 8-10 servings


1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs), room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup best-quality cocoa powder, such as Valrhona or Droste, sifted
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sliced strawberries or whole raspberries, or any combination of ripe fruit


1.  Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt until foamy.  Add the 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar and continue whipping until stiff, smooth, and glossy, about 5 minutes more.  Add the sifted cocoa powder and mix just to combine, 10 to 20 seconds more.

3.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit into a sheet pan.  Use a pencil to draw or trace a circle 9 inches in diameter on the paper.  Line the sheet pan with the paper, pencil side down (you should still be able to see the circle).  Spoon the egg whites into the circle and use the back of the spoon the top and sides of the disk.  

4.  Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top, about 45 minutes more.  Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and let the meringue cool in the oven for at least 30 minutes, to room temperature.  Note from GG:  The meringue can be held at room temperature for a few hours before serving.

5.  When you're ready to serve, whip the cream with the remaining sugar.  Place the meringue on a serving platter and pile the whipped cream on top, spreading it evenly to within 1/2 inch of the meringue.  Arrange the fruit on top of the cream.  To serve, slice into wedges with a serrated knife.      

Notes from me:
  • For the 1 c. of sugar, I used 1 c. Demerara (raw) sugar.  For the 2 tbsp. of sugar, I substituted 1 tbsp. Agave syrup.  
  • For the cocoa, I usually use Ghiardelli, which is readily found at the places I do my weekly shopping. 
  • Friend Mieka has a good tip - bake on an oven proof plate.  The meringue spreads 1-2" or so during the baking, so be sure the plate is large enough to accommodate.

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