Monday, May 31, 2010


Refreshing Summer Sparkler
When citrus fruits are plentiful, buy a bunch. Peel and dry the zest as outlined in the Cognac Currant Cheesecake Hints section and juice the fruits, freeze the juice. Make your syrup when the mint is abundant in your garden and freeze that. When guests drop by, you have the components already at hand for a beverage that looks like you planned for their visit.
· Mint Syrup (recipe follows)
· Fresh Lemon Juice ( Grapefruit, Lime or Orange juice also works well)
· Club Soda ( or Pellegrino-still water will also make a refreshing drink
Fill pitcher with ice. Splash in a little lemon juice in, sweeten to taste with mint syrup and fill with club soda. Garnish with lemon slices and springs of fresh mint.

Mint Syrup:
I make this all summer long when the garden produces copious amounts of mint then enjoy it at my leisure!
· 2 parts sugar
· 1 part water
· Fair amount of mint.
1. Bring the water to a boil.
2. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly.
3. Once the sugar is dissolved completely, boil a minute and remove from the heat.
4. Stir in handfuls of mint.
5. Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle.

I make this all summer long when the garden produces copious amounts of mint then enjoy it at my leisure!

Savory Cognac Currant Cheesecake
Yield: 1 small cheesecake which can serve up to 20 depending on other items served
7 Tablespoons toasted Almonds (chop 5T. 1/8”and reserve 2 T. for garnish)
1 cup currants macerated in cognac to cover (approx ¼ cup cognac)
2/3 lb cream cheese- room temperature
2/3 cup ricotta or sour cream- room temperature
2 extra-large eggs + 1 yolk- room temperature
1 Tablespoon orange zest (no white pith)-finely grated (a microplane works great for this)
2 teaspoons sugar
Light ¼ teaspoon ground Cardamom
Pinch of ground nutmeg (try to use whole nutmeg and grate with microplane or better yet, nutmeg grater….the flavor cannot be compared to the sawdust purchased in those small expensive jars)
Pinch ground white pepper
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon almond extract
6”- 8” spring form pan with bottom wrapped in foil.

Measure all dry spices/sugar, almonds, grated zest and put aside.
Beat cream cheese till smooth, scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time till incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl after each egg.
Add spices/sugar/zest/almonds and lightly mix in, scrape down sides of bowl.
Add ricotta (or sour cream), till incorporated, scrape down sides of bowl.
Drain currants (reserve liquid – see Tips) and stir in.
Add extract, beat till all mixed in. Do not overbeat.
Measure all dry spices/sugar and put aside.
Peel ¼ of orange and chop till fine, and almonds and chop coarse (remember, they will continue to be ground up as you add other ingredients)
Add cream cheese and pulse till mixed smooth; add eggs, 1 at a time till each egg is incorporated periodically scraping down sides of work bowl.
Add ricotta or sour cream and spices/sugar. Pulse a couple of times and scrape down sides of bowl.
Add extract and pulse till incorporated. Drain currants (reserve liquid-see tips) and pulse VERY lightly to mix in. Do not over process. You may have to additionally stir manually to mix currants in so they do not become chopped.
Pour into prepared spingform pan.
Bake at 300 degrees 30- 40 minutes depending on your oven. Try not to open your oven door for the first 20 ish minutes, use the light to check the action and see Tips and Hints for determining when your cheesecake is done. Turn oven off and leave cheesecake in oven for at least 1 hour, I have left it in till the oven has cooled. Chill for 1 day. Remove cheesecake from pan by removing foil from pan. Gently release latch of pan. Run knife along the interior of the pan. Release the sides of the pan all the way.
At this point I remove the cake from the bottom of the pan and move onto a bakers cardboard round. These are available at party stores and craft stores like Michael’s.
For the Tour I spread the top with our own Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade. Other garnish ideas could be:
a quality store bought orange marmalade
sour cream mixed with a bit of orange zest and a touch of sugar would work
and for the lazy day-leave it alone!
After dressing the top, holding the cheesecake from the cardboard disk underneath (or a plate) gently press the reserved almonds into the sides.
Serve with crackers, thinly sliced baguettes, sliced apples or pears and definitely cocktails!

1. How to tell when your cheesecake is done.
Don’t open your oven door more than you have to during baking. Watch the action by using your oven light. Once the cheesecake rises a bit, this is when you can turn it.
2. You want the center of the cake to not completely set during baking. When you gently shake the pan, the middle should – ok, pardon me for this one, and try not to laugh too loudly- the middle should move like a silicone breast implant- not that I have firsthand experience with this….. The sides of the cheesecake also look like they have set and have JUST begun to move away from the pan.
Once you have achieved this state, shut the oven off, close the door and leave the cheesecakes to come down gently in temperature. This should prevent cracking.
Save the cognac which the currants have macerated in. You can add more currants for the next time you make this, add this liquid to a sauce for winter meat dishes, use for a winter dried fruit compote or vegetable stew.
3. I have tripled and quadrupled this recipe when needed. If you are heading into entertaining season or want to bring something along during the holiday parties, make these ahead and freeze them UNGARNISHED. Pull them out a day before and place in the refrigerator to defrost and garnish the day of.
4. My original recipe was for ricotta, in the midst of making the m for a catering, I realized I had to ricotta; hence the sour cream version was born. Please do not be afraid to substitute. No oranges, use lemons. Use dried peel. No almond extract, try orange or lemon. EXPERIMENT!!!
5. If your cake split and you really don’t want to put it out the way it looks, change the shape of it. Use it as a spread, smoosh the cheesecake into an attractive bowl and surround with the crackers and fruits. Same can be said for leftover cheesecake.
6. DRIED PEELS. Citrus is essential to my cooking. Sometimes I need tons of juice and have no use for the peel, when that happens, first I lightly peel the fruit and place this peel (no white pith) on a sheet pan and place in my turned off oven for a couple of days. Once the peel has dried, I pulverize it in the food processor and jar it up for that day when I may have run out of that particular fruit or I just need something extra! Uses for dried citrus peel are ENDLESS! Mix with salt and pepper and place on chicken or fish for grilling or broiling. Add to salad dressings, stews, sauces. Use in baking.

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