This dessert gets its exotic touch from star anise, a licorice-y seasoning that's used in Vietnamese cooking. Find it in your supermarket's spice aisle.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out with a knife tip and reserved
2 star anise, each broken into 2 or 3 pieces
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 pound rhubarb, ends trimmed
1 cup fruity red wine, such as Grenache
12 to 16 meringue cookies (1 1/2 to 2 in. wide)
About 1/2 cup crème fraîche, sweetened to taste
3 tablespoons chopped roasted, salted pistachios
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 375°. In a 9-in. square baking pan, toss sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, star anise, and orange zest to combine. Halve rhubarb lengthwise, and if stalks are large, split again lengthwise. Cut pieces about 2 in. long on a diagonal and combine with sugar mixture. Stir in wine along with pepper to taste.
Bake until rhubarb is tender when pierced but still holds its shape, 15 to 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer rhubarb to a shallow bowl; discard star anise.
Pour rhubarb juices into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, 6 to 9 minutes. Pour over rhubarb. Let cool, occasionally spooning syrup over fruit.
Set meringues in bowls. Spoon fruit and syrup on top, discarding vanilla bean. Add a spoonful of crème fraîche to each and sprinkle with pistachios.