Lemon Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust

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This lightly citrusy cheesecake is tall and decadent, creamy without being too heavy, and absolutely sure to impress. Both people who swore they hated cheesecake and those that hated lemons (who hates lemons?!) sang this cake praises.

It’s not difficult to make, but keep in mind that it does need to be made a day ahead of serving in order to chill.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 5 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 large eggs
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon twists (garnish) – I used this recipe by blogger HomemadeToast

Method

Crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir the cookie crumbs and the butter in medium bowl until evenly moistened. Press the mixture onto bottom of 9-inch-diameter removable-bottom cheesecake pan. Use a tall pan (at least 3 inches) because this recipe makes a very tall cheesecake. Also, I like to line the bottom of cheesecake pan with parchment. Bake the crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.
  2. Stack 3 large sheets of foil on work surface. Place same cake pan in center. Gather foil snugly around pan bottom and up sides to waterproof.

Filling:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the salt. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the sour cream, grated lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour the filling into the pan.
  2. Place the wrapped cake pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up sides of the cake pan. Bake the cake until the filling is slightly puffed and moves only slightly when pan is shaken gently, about 1 hour 25 minutes. Remove the cake pan from water bath; remove foil. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 2 hours. Then chill uncovered until cold; cover and keep chilled at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
  3. Run a knife around the sides; carefully loosen pan bottom from sides and push up pan bottom to release cake. Place cake (still on the pan bottom, unless you’ve lined the pan with parchment) on a platter. Garnish with lemon leaves or twists.

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Greek Brunch

Greek Brunch Buffet

The Menu

Greek Brunch Buffet

Watermelon Salad

Greek Dips

tzatziki

sheep’s milk yogurt, cucumber, olive oil, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt

taramosalata

carp fish roe, potato, olive oil, lemon juice

melitzanosalata

eggplant, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, parsley

Pita Bread

Greek Olives

Tsoureki

 Tsoureki, a sweet bread similar to brioche, is traditionally topped with red-dyed eggs for Easter.

Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad with Mint + Feta

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice OR white wine vinegar
  • kosher salt + freshly ground pepper, to taste (careful with the salt- the olives and feta will be plenty salty)
  • 1 8-pound seedless watermelon, cut into chunks (10 cups)
  • ½  pound feta cheese, crumbled (2 cups)
  • 1 ¼ cups pitted kalamata olives
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

Whisk the vinegar, salt+pepper, and olive oil together. Toss with the watermelon, feta, olives, onion, and mint.

Cur, Cocks & Quiche

Introductions at my aunt’s farmyard were nothing short of spectacular: Watson, my 80 lb. shepherd/husky mix, catapulted into the chicken coop fencing, sending panicked hens into a squawking frenzy around the downed wire.  It was a fantastic sight to see his canine form bolt across the yard with a zen-like singleness of purpose, and punctuated by a leap of such grace! But the performance was ultimately self-sabotage;  off-leash privileges, a rarity in our daily New York City life, were eliminated the remainder of our visit.

My aunt feeding cherry tomatoes to her brood

With a richer, more golden, and much larger yolk than those bought at the grocery store, the eggs these hens produce are magnificent. And although I used ‘quiche’ in the post title for the purpose of alliteration, this is technically a frittata. A quiche has a pie crust whereas a frittata is basically a large, fluffy open-faced omelet.

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • toppings of choice, chopped (in this case, garden fresh cherry tomatoes, broccoli, onions and basil)
  • 1 c. grated cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to broil.

Whisk the eggs with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a 12-inch oven safe skillet over medium high heat.

Add eggs, stir with a rubber spatula until they starting to set, about 5 minutes.

Add toppings and cheese, place in the oven until lightly browned, 3-5 minutes.

Swanky Summer Soiree

My cousin and I broke out some entertaining show stoppers in honor of some lovely ladies visiting this past weekend. One of these amazing women was passing through on her way back home from Africa after spending a month volunteering with Mothers Without Borders. This organization provides safe shelter, food, and education to orphans, whose abandonment is predominantly due to the death of HIV-infected parents. Ultimate luxury (in this case, fresh peaches!) is most enjoyed in such loving company.

Fruity Cocktails

1 peach
1 lemon
1 pint ginger ale (I suggest a good quality micro-brewed soda)
candied ginger for garnish

In a blender, puree the pitted peach, the juice of the lemon, a bit of finely chopped ginger and enough soda or water to make a syrup. Chill and just before serving, pour into cocktail glasses garnished with a piece of  candied ginger. Alternately, muddle peach slices and lemon juice in a tall glass (with whiskey if you are feeling boozy!). Fill the glass to the top with ice then with ginger ale.
Other fabulous combos I HIGHLY recommend are:
  • cucumber/mint
  • grapefruit/basil
  • and watermelon/cilantro

No Fuss Classy Cheese Plate

1 wedge high quality blue cheese
1 dozen ripe fresh figs, halved
honey

Serve the cheese and figs drizzled with honey.

Polenta Squares

Polenta = day old grits

I’ve discovered that my beloved definition, although it appeals to my Southern sensibility, is dead wrong. The Anson Mills site explains that the two foods, nearly indistinguishable to all but  the most experienced palates, are ground from different varieties of corn, dent and flint:

Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling–it also makes phenomenal grits.

Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouthfeel when cooked. One type of American flint–indigenous to the Northeast–was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships.

This wasn’t my only discovery in this recipe experiment. My attempts to pan fry chunks of the polenta loaf were in vain; the resulting mush was delicious but formless. I kept the shape and got the crust I was after by cranking up the broiler, but if anyone has any suggestions for a stovetop technique, do share it!

Polenta

2 cups broth*

1 cup water

1 cup corn meal

Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 – 2 cups chopped veggies (peppers, onion, mushrooms, etc.)**

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 – 1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, canned crushed tomatoes, or jarred tomato sauce

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Bring the broth to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour the polenta into a greased dish. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set, about 15 minutes. Cut the polenta into squares, top with grated mozzarella, and place under the broiler to toast and melt cheese.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and saute until the juices evaporate, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic. Add the tomatoes and decrease the heat to medium-low, simmer till heated through and all veggies are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper and/or hot sauce.

Serve the cheesy polenta planks topped with the sauce.

*I used stock made from the bone in a roasted pork shoulder

**I used roasted veggies that I keep on hand in the fridge

Birthday Lasagna

I’m sure being at my beck and call as photo assistant and hand model was my youngest sister’s #1 choice of ways to celebrate her birthday.  Since the lasagna was a whopping success, perhaps she’ll forgive this latest bout of harassment.

Happy birthday Brenna.

Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Lasagna

4 Tablespoons Butter

4 Tablespoons Flour

2 cups Whole Milk

1 cup Chicken Stock

1-½ cups Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

1-½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Pepper

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves Garlic, Minced

1 Small Onion, Finely Chopped

1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

2-½ cups Broccoli Florets

2 cups Cooked Shredded Chicken*

4 cups Ricotta Cheese

1-½ cups Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded

1 egg

Box Oven Ready Lasagna Noodles

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Place a large sauce pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and cook it for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and chicken stock and bring the sauce up to a bubble. Add in the nutmeg and season it with black pepper and nutmeg. Simmer until the sauce thickens, 3-4 minutes. Add Parmesan.

3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan. Add onion, garlic, broccoli, and Italian seasoning. Cook on medium-high for about 1 minute until vegetables are tender. Add chicken.*

4. In another bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, egg, and pepper to taste.

5. Ladle a small amount of the white sauce into a 13×9 casserole dish. Line lasagna noodles on the bottom over the sauce. Add 1/3 of the veggie/meat mixture over the noodles, spread 1/2 of the cheese mixture, and ladle 1 cup of sauce. Repeat until all ingredients are used (total of 3 layers). Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 20-30 (until lightly browned and cheese is bubbly). Let the lasagna sit for about 10 minutes to cool before serving.

 

*Note: I used a pack of chicken quarters that I baked at 375° F until done (about 45 minutes). I sautéed the onion/broccoli mixture in some of the chicken pan drippings instead of olive oil.