Wednesday, June 21, 2006

We were invited to a neighbor's house last night for dinner. We'd really never met them, but they wanted us to see their finished house. The wife's family has lived in Saturday Cove for over a hundred years and she inherited an old cape up the street from us. She and her husband spent hundreds of thousands of dollars essentially gutting the house from the inside out, creating gorgeous rock walls and gardens that I just envy for their beauty. So, I wanted to make something special. I've had a hankering for making cheesecake lately and so I decided on a chocolate cheesecake recipe that my mom gave me. She makes the best chessecake around, and I fiddled with the recipe to make it better (modest, huh?). This is probably the best cheesecake I have ever had. There is this great decadent chocolate sour cream tang to it and the addition of ricotta makes it very light. Of course, like all cheesecakes, it gets better with age. Trust me, you'll never find a better tasting cheesecake.

Start out by preheating your oven to 300 degrees and then butter well a 9" springform pan. Combine 1 1/2 cups of chocoate wafer crumbs, 1/2 stick of melted butter and two tablespoons of sugar. (this is where my mouth starts to water) . Spread evenly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the springform and then set in fridge to chill while you make filling.

Scald 1 cup of heavy cream in a saucepan and then pour over 16 oz of semisweet chocolate broken into bits. stir until melted and then beat with electric beater until light and smooth to get some air into the mixture. Set aside.

Beat 4 egg yolks at room temp.( save the whites for later) with 1/2 cup sugar until the mixture is thick and light yellow and comes off the beater in a ribbon. Add chocolate mixture and beat until well combined.

In a large bowl beat 1 1/2 lbs softened cream cheese, one cup sour cream, one cup ricotta cheese, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, & 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until smooth. Add the chocolate mixture and combine well.

Beat the egg whites in a small bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar and salt until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture and then pour into prepared shell.

Place the springform pan into a baking dish (I used a huge roasting pan) and fill the baking dish with hot water until the level is 1/2 way up the outside of the springform pan. Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours and then turn the oven off and without opening the door, let the cheesecake set in oven for another hour and a half. Cool completely and then place in fridge to chill through. Best made the day before serving.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Quiz: What do you make when a friend invites you for dinner the same night, asks you to bring dessert, and you are hung-over from the night before and don't want to go to the grocery store?
This is another one for WWJD? I took stock of what I had in the kitchen that was kind of dessertish and found a 1/2 a bag of frozen strawberries (make that a 1/3rd of a bag and a lot of freezer burn, two apples past their prime, some frozen puff pastry and a lemon. I have enough for a tart? Lets hope! I then cooked the strawberries on the stove with water and sugar and then added the apples. When tender, I suddenly remembered that I had a can of yellow papaya in the cupboard that I got at Reny's hoping that I could use it in some Thai dish or some such "exotic" dish involving jasmine rice (these are the dreams I have while surfing the cans in Reny's food aisle....beware, always check the born on date!) I digress.....So I added the papaya and lemon zest and juice from one lemon and let the whole thing boil. My last trick while the concoction was still bubbling away was to add about a tablespoon of cornstarch as a thickener. Took the pot off the heat and put it in the fridge to cool (make sure you have either tempered surfaces or place the mixture in a cool bowl first)
Quick thawed the puff pastry in the wave and then rolled out and draped it over the sides of a buttered cast iron skillet (a cook's best friend ). I then buttered and sugared the bottom of the puff pastry and added the fruit mixture. Fold over corners of puff pastry making sure to leave a "rustic" opening so that your meal mates can oooo and ahhh over what you made. Brush tops with melted butter and then sprinkle sugar over the butter.

Cook in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until golden.

This got total raves. One person looked at me guiltily as she was scooping more onto her plate and said "I never have seconds"