Meringue Hearts Floating in Raspberry Sauce

Ingredients for raspberry sauce:
1.5 pounds fresh raspberries or two 12-ounce bags frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar

Ingredients for meringues:
8 room temperature egg whites
1 cup sugar
Garnish options - 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and some mint leaves, washed.

1. Prepare raspberry sauce: Combine the raspberries and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth. Push the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
2. Whip the egg whites on high speed until white, fluffy, and just about to hold soft peaks. With mixer still on high, slowly pour in the sugar in a steady stream. Whip until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
3. Cut out a round piece of parchment just a little bit smaller in diameter than the large, wide sauté pan that you will use to cook the meringues. Grease the parchment with vegetable shortening.
4. Pour 3" to 4" of water into the saute pan and bring it to barely a simmer.
5. Fit a pastry bag with a #8 or #9 plain tip, and fill the bag about halfway with the meringue.
6. Form hearts by piping two teardrops, each about 3" long, side by side on the greased parchment.
7. Carefully slide the parchment onto the surface of the simmering water, and pull it out from under the hearts. The hearts should just slide off as soon as the paper comes in contact with the hot water.
8. Simmer, covered for 45 seconds. Lift the hearts from the water with a slotted spoon, and drain them on paper towels. Repeat until you have 16 to 20 hearts. (Meringue hearts can be refrigerated uncovered for up to one day.)
9. To assemble the dessert: Pour the raspberry sauce onto a shallow platter that is large enough to hold all of the meringue hearts. Using a slotted spatula, carefully float the meringues on top of the sauce.
10. Arrange strawberry slices around the rim of the platter and decorate with the mint leaves. Serve immediately.

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