This elegant pavlova has a crunchy outer shell and a soft marshmallow-like center. Italian meringue, made with a cooked sugar syrup, is the most stable meringue and forms the base of this dessert. A Middle Eastern-inspired flavor combination of honey-sweet figs, buttery bright green pistachios and subtle flowery rosewater is a welcome contrast to the overall sweet taste.
For the meringue: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add the sugar and 1/2 cup water to a very clean medium saucepot and mix until the sugar is moistened. Heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until the mixture begins to boil. Continue boiling until it reaches 240 degrees F on a candy or instant-read thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes,
Meanwhile, pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed until they begin to froth up, about 1 minute. Add the cream of tartar and continue whisking until very thick and frothy but no peaks have begun to form, 2 to 3 minutes.
When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, turn off the stand mixer and add the syrup to the egg whites. Immediately turn the mixer to high and whip until the meringue is thick and glossy and holds very stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Add the rosewater and whip 5 seconds to fully incorporate. The meringue should be smooth and silky and hold its shape when you scoop it from the bowl.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Form 8 pavlovas between the 2 sheets, dividing the batter as evenly as possible. To form each pavlova, scoop out 2 to 3 large spoonfuls of the meringue, heaping them on top of each another on the parchment. Make a divot in the center of each, forming a shallow well with the back of the spoon, and smooth out the sides. Leave enough room between each pavlova to allow them to expand slightly. Sprinkle the sides of each pavlova with the chopped pistachios.
Just before loading the baking sheets into the oven, lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.
Bake, rotating the baking sheets from front to back at least once, for about 2 hours. To check if the pavlovas are done, lift them from the baking sheets and gently poke them to make sure the outsides are completely firm and the centers are still a little soft. Let them cool completely on the baking sheets.
For the whipped cream topping: Whip the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and seeds from half of the vanilla bean and whip to medium peaks, 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve, top each meringue with whipped cream and garnish with sliced figs.