Cheese Course

I was never a big fan of cheesecake until I made the association of cheesecake as a cheese course rather than a cake. On the rare occasion dining out that you might opt for what most would consider a hors d’oeuvre, a cheese plate certainly offers rich, decadent flavor, and often a fruity and/or acidic component to cut the fat and give balance. In this way, I equate a light, fluffy blueberry lemon cheesecake with what it really is – a cheese course.

Here is my in-progress recipe, adapted from Taste of Home

Blueberry-Lemon Cheesecake

TOPPING/SWIRL INGREDIENTS

1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon cold water

CRUST INGREDIENTS

1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 16 squares)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon lemon zest

FILLING INGREDIENTS

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup light sour cream

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the berries are softened. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into the blueberry mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and add lemon zest; cool to room temperature. Transfer to a blender or magic bullet; cover and process until smooth. Set aside.
  2. For crust, in a small bowl, combine the crumbs (I use a food processor to pulverize them), lemon zest and sugar; stir in the butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, flour and vanilla. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Pour filling over crust. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons blueberry mixture; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.
  4. Return pan to baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen; cool or refrigerate until serving. Serve with remaining blueberry sauce drizzles on each slice.

TIRAMISU

Recipe adapted from Melissa Roberts & Maggie Ruggiero

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups boiling-hot water
  • 3 tablespoons instant-espresso or coffee crystals
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons coffee liquor (e.g. Godiva)
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum (e.g. Myer’s)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1 pound mascarpone (2 1/2 cups or two small containers)
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • 36 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers; do not use the soft ones!)
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

PREPARATION

  1. Stir together water, espresso powder, 1 tablespoon sugar, and rum + chocolate liquor in a shallow bowl until sugar has dissolved, then cool. Set aside.
  2. Beat egg yolks, Marsala, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water using a whisk or handheld electric mixer until tripled in volume, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat. Beat in mascarpone until just combined. Set aside.
  3. Beat cream in a large bowl until it holds stiff peaks.
  4. Fold mascarpone mixture into whipped cream gently but thoroughly.
  5. Dipping both sides of each ladyfinger into coffee mixture, fill baking pan with 18 ladyfingers in 3 rows, trimming edges to fit if necessary. Spread half of mascarpone filling on top. Dip remaining 18 ladyfingers in coffee and arrange over filling in pan. I usually do an extra layer, it depends on your dish!
  6. Spread remaining mascarpone filling on top and dust with cocoa. Chill, covered, at least 6 hours.
  7. Let tiramisu stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving, then dust with more cocoa.

 

 

24 Hours in Iceland

For a long weekend in Iceland, here are some tried and true recommendations for the best bang for your buck!

- Coffee and pastries @ Reykjavik Roasters

- Brunch @ Snaps Bistro

- Dinner @ Fishmarket

- On your way out of town, grab lunch @ the Blue Lagoon’s Lava Restaurant

Triple Ginger Cookie

Recipe by Canyon Ranch

This cookie provides just the right chewy, spicy, molasses tang – and you’d never guess they’re only 80 calories per cookie!

Ingredients

⅓ cup unsalted butter
⅔ cup low-fat cream cheese
1½ cups brown sugar
1 egg yolk
⅓ cup black strap molasses
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
½ tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger root
½ cup minced crystallized ginger

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with canola oil spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar on low speed with an electric mixer. Add egg yolk and molasses and mix on low until just combined.
  3. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture and mix on low for 10 to 20 seconds. Add fresh ginger and crystallized ginger. Mix briefly by hand. Portion heaping teaspoonfuls (or use a ¾ ounce scoop) onto baking sheet about 1½ inches apart. Bake for 7 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and bake an additional 2 minutes.

 

Chocolate Mousse Cake

A take on our family’s favorite birthday treat — Angela Mia Chocolate Mousse Cake. This version is slightly less dense and doesn’t include a chocolate chip siding (however, you could certainly add it, as you wish!) Best served with homemade vanilla ice cream!

Imperative ingredients: booze in the mousse– your choice, but Kahlua works extremely well. Also the darkest cocoa powder you can find for the cake as well as the ganache!

Optional additions: Berries on top, chocolate chips, jam or ganache layer within.

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Ingredients

Cake

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Mousse

2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream
3 Tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tbsp Kahlua or Godiva liqueur

Chocolate Ganache
1 1/4 cup high quality dark chocolate
3/4 cups whipping cream

Directions

Cake

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease three 9-inch cake pans and lightly flour

Put 2 cups of water into a saucepan, mix in the cocoa and boil. Stir until combined and smooth, then turn off and set aside to cool.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together.

Beat in the dry ingredients alternating with the chocolate mixture.

Beat just until blended, do not over mix.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Remove cakes from oven, place on cooling racks and leave them in the pans for 5 minutes.

 

Chocolate Mousse

Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or a pot filled with water and bowl. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream and sugar, to stiff peaks. When chocolate is cool, whisk into cream. Whisk in vanilla and Kahlua. Set aside or store in refrigerator.

 

Chocolate Ganache

Melt chocolate and cream in a double boiler, or a pot filled with water and bowl. Set aside to cool.

Put chocolate mousse in between layers. Then pour chocolate ganache over top of cake. Serve.

$27 Banana Split

Go to The Beatrice Inn for a hearty meat-centric dinner and stay for this dessert, if your wallet allows. On a girls night out we treated ourselves to the Banana Brulee Sundae with Chocolate covered Cherries, Amarena Cherry Ice Cream, Sponge Cake and Pedro Ximenez and suffice to say it did not disappoint. The limited dessert options are gluttonous so say the least – foie gras ice cream and fried apple pie are the other choices – but this was surprisingly light for packing such a decadent punch. The bananas were perfectly fried to a golden brown, but the truest highlight of the dish was the cherry infused vanilla ice cream and PX sherry – a match made in heaven!

Tomato Tuna

 

Ahimi Nigiri

This week I attended Menus of Change, a sustainable food conference for professional chefs and foodservice operators focused on food transparency and plant-forward eating. The conference is eye-opening, featuring speakers from all corners of the food innovation world from Kimbal Musk (Kitchen Denver) and Corby Kummer (The Atlantic) to McDonald’s and Sonic.

One standout moment this year, perhaps equal with the launch of Sonic’s blended burger, was an innovation by Ocean Hugger Foods called Ahimi – A faux tuna product developed by Chef James Corwell.

We all (okay not all, but if you’re reading this you probably do) know that blue fin tuna is an endangered species and somehow still shows up in fish markets. In fact seafood is now almost always the top issue noted in food sustainability discussions. So why not create a sustainable alternative designed to have the taste and texture of tuna, but made entirely plant-based. The sous vide tomato is clean and unprocessed (the finer details are kept a secret by Chef Corwell and Ocean Hugger) but essentially it’s just water, tomatoes, soy sauce, and vinegar.

“[Our] mission is to support sustainability of the oceans, protect wildlife, and create a world where people can experience the delicious culinary tradition of sushi without harming the oceans.”

Firm, juicy, and bursting with savory flavor, the world’s first plant-based alternative to tuna has set the bar high by demonstrating the endless possibility for sustainable innovation.

Almond Milk Shots

Working with the Almond Board of California (ABC) for 5+ years I’ve tasted my fair share of almond milk. There’s always a new take, be it an innovative add-in or sweetener, a blend of coconut or other milks, but usually the simplest recipes take the cake.

Chef Matt Vawter holds it down at Mercantile with this perfectly creamy and slightly sweet recipe. Mercantile is also an incredible place to hang out if you find yourself in Denver’s Union Station – grab a pastry and an iced almond milk latte and set yourself up on the sun soaked patio for a few hours. Then you can make this stuff yourself at home!

Almond Milk

Chef Matt Vawter — Mercantile Denver

150 grams Almonds

Soaked fully submerged in water for 24 hours.

2 each medjool dates

Method:

Remove the soaked almonds from the water and blend in a high powered food service blender with 600 grams fresh water and the dates. Blend until smooth and then strain through a nut bag.

This photo is from a food trends tour we curated in Denver and Boulder for ABC – to taste the recipe on its own we all had a shot alongside our almond milk and coffee beverages.

Ad Hoc/Addendum Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken

“Since fried chicken night only happens twice a month,” Thomas Keller says, “people have a wonderful sense of anticipation.”

Well I’m not sure if it’s the sense of anticipation or the tried and true lemony brine, but the fried chicken at Ad Hoc is truly unsurpassed in my book.

Outstanding crisp, juicy chicken, and the fresh mix of seasoning make for a salacious take on the classic. Sure to extensively take over dinner table discussion, the chicken wins the meal without question. Heavy sides – mac and cheese, mashed potatoes – prove far denser than the flawless main event.

To try recreating at home, see below for Food and Wine’s posting of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 1 small bunch of parsley
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Two 3-pound chickens
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish

RECIPE

  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  4. In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.