Friday, December 31, 2010

One last post of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I can't help but notice that it's been a pretty good year. Sure, no one cured cancer, or global warming but overall, I feel good about life in general. I also cooked some awesome things this year, one of which was a goat cheese cheesecake for my friend Becky who is deathly allergic to cow's milk.

I think my friends could tell you that I am very accommodating to people's food allergies. It makes me feel like I'm in my own version of Iron Chef: Allergy edition (people could also tell you that I am not so accommodating to picky eaters. If you're not eating something for no reason, I have no patience for that and you can't come to my house for dinner). So when Meredith made this cheesecake a few months back, I thought immediately, oooh, I can make this for Becky.

My one thought about this recipe is that it had the consistency of a souffle rather than a cheesecake. But Meredith told me it's because I forgot to chill it for four hours first. Whoops.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake - adapted from here

Butter and granulated sugar for the cake pan (or oil if butter makes you break out in hives)
Graham Cracker Crumbs and a light tasting oil - for a crust
11 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pint blackberries (about 1 cup) (I skipped these)
1 pint raspberries (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Press some graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Drizzle olive oil on top and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Put the goat cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth.

Mmmmm, cheese.

Stir in the egg yolks two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour until incorporated. If you're at your mom's house and don't have access to a stand mixer, use a hand mixer instead. It'll be fine.

Put the egg whites in another mixer bowl, fit the mixer with the whip attachment, and whip on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the goat cheese mixture. I used to be totally afraid of folding egg whites. Now I have confidence and these egg whites folded appropriately. Woo!

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

To serve, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, invert a platter on top of the pan, and then invert the plate and pan together. Lift off the pan (or, you know, just take the springy part off the springform pan).

Top with the berries and serve. Chill to get the consistency all creamy like a cheesecake. If you don't, it's still good.

It's a great option for those who can't have milk! Happy super belated birthday, Becky and have a happy new year everybody! See you in 2011.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

People really like these

Last night, I stumbled across a great idea. Want to see a picture of it?

That, my friends, is an individually sized candied bacon cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and chocolate drizzled on top. Madness, you say? Maybe.

My friends Anna and Alan come over for a Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Christmas dinner every year where I get to make all the holiday dishes that I don't make for my family. It's really awesome. I was going over my menu ideas with Alan this weekend and I mentioned that I'd make some candied bacon last week but that it was too sticky to sell or give out. "Why don't you put it in a cheesecake?" Alan suggested. Brilliant. So I did.

First, I made a crust out of Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Snaps, by putting them in a ziploc bag and whacking them with a hammer. Then I melted butter and added it to the crumbs. I pushed it into four individual springform pans (Thanks, Chris!!!!!) and baked them for about ten minutes. Then I let them cool.

Then I mixed a package of cream cheese, an egg, 1/4 cup sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla in my stand mixer. I chopped up my candied bacon (which had been drizzled with chocolate) and threw it in. I baked it until it was firm and chilled it. Then I put melted some chocolate and used a spoon to make pretty lines of chocolate.

The responses I got to this dish (which I admit, I was a little nervous about) were fantastic. Everybody loved it! I only wish I'd taken more pictures. If I'd known it would turn out so well, I would have taken more. Next time!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sweet baby Jesus, this cake is good...

...or so said the first person who tasted it. At least, that's what the good people at Vesta Vino (my favorite restaurant in Astoria) told me and why should I not believe them?

I am totally obsessed with this cake. Sometimes I order it when I'm already full and then I feel sick, but it's so good I don't care. It's also so easy to make. This would be a great and appropriate Christmas cake - but Jews like it too! I can say that with confidence. It went over very well at my house this year.

This cake is unbelievably sticky and moist. If you think you don't like dates, you'll still like this cake.

Baby Jesus Cake
6 servings

1 cup dried dates, rehydrated in 1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons softened butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" square baking dish.

Rehydrate the dates in hot water. Add baking soda and puree in food processor.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the vanilla and baking powder. Mix in the date puree, then flour. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted is free of cake.

Pour hot sauce (recipe below) over cake and serve with vanilla gelato and unsweetened whipped cream.

Baby Jesus Sauce
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

Melt together until emulsified.

This is not emulsified yet. But it was a hectic picture taking time.

I mean, seriously, how easy was that? Now it's just amazing sticky goodness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Everybody loves soup

Today, there are little snow flurries outside my window. It makes me feel like eating warm soup and sitting on the couch with a snuggie. That's not quite in the cards for me, but at least I can share this soup recipe with you. My family has made it for the past few years as a first course on Thanksgiving. My dad likes it, even though it has cream, cheese and butter in it (small amounts of each, don't worry).

Butternut Squash Soup adapted from Pie in the Sky

I double this recipe for Thanksgiving and other large occasions.

1 2-lb. butternut squash
1 t. olive oil
1 t. sea salt
fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste

1 large shallot, coarsely diced
2 T. plus 1 t. salted butter
1 t. chopped fresh sage leaves, plus 5-10 fresh sage leaves for garnish
1½+ cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, if you're cooking for my parents. Safeway Select Organics is a good one and so is Kitchen Basics. Under pain of death, do not use Trader Joe's brand. I love Trader Joe's, but their vegetable stock tastes like feet)
1/2+ c. heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. light oil cut sides of squash; sprinkle with salt and place cut-side-down on baking sheet. Bake at 370 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until squash is very tender when pierced with a fork. Cool slightly; scoop out pulp, discarding the skin.

Mmmmm, orange squashy goodness. I could eat it now, but then there wouldn't be any soup.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat. When butter begins to froth, add shallots; cook three minutes; add chopped sage. sauté for 2 more minutes, or until onions are tender and translucent.

There are few things in the world better than shallots and butter.

Melt additional butter in pan; add 1 cup stock and bring just to simmer. Remove onion mixture from heat and stir into squash pulp; puree in food processor in batches, adding more broth as necessary.

Pour pureed mixture into medium saucepan. Over low heat, stir in heavy cream, nutmeg, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste (be sure to salt after adding cheese, which is salty itself!). Remove from heat.

I rarely do this next step because I get hungry/lazy. But you feel free! Melt remaining teaspoon salted butter in small sauté pan over medium heat; lay whole sage leaves in butter and fry until frizzled and slightly brown. transfer to paper towel to drain; garnish soup with crispy sage leaves. (Hint: frizzle ribbons of prosciutto with the sage for a special garnish!)

I could eat a lot of this soup. I like to keep it in a jar in my fridge and eat it when I'm too lazy to cook.