Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Of course each of my recipes has to have a story. I don't know why--perhaps it's because there is a source of inspiration for each of them. Maybe I simply can't stop myself from being a storyteller. Whatever the case, today's post and recipe has my favorite source of inspiration: good friends. Recently we went North to Sonoma, CA to visit a dear family friend with another dear friend in tow. Our Sonoma friend had in her courtyard a few healthy yet gnarled lemon trees which were heavy with the most enormous lemons I have ever seen in my life. for context, they were considerably larger than softballs. I'll have to get her to take a picture, because I didn't think of it. I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn't think of taking one, either, despite the overabundance. It was the dear friend we had brought with us who suggested we take one and that I do something special with it. And it is a special lemon. The ones you let get heavy on the tree and which are plucked immediately are sweeter, but at the same time more redolent of citrus fragrance.
I'm finally getting around to that project, so in honor of dear friends, I present my creamy, dreamy, deliciously citrus-y and just a little bit tart lemon cheesecake bars. To enhance the lemon flavor I used lemon extract and to really compliment the sharp cheesecake filling I used some sweet and buttery vanilla wafers in the crust. The zest was put into this dessert and I used the juice to make fresh lemonade which was absolutely fabulous.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

makes one 9" square pan

For the crust:
2 graham crackers, crushed to crumbs
12 Nilla Wafers, crushed
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
Zest of 1/4 lemon

1. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Press into the bottom of pan. If you don't have a square springform pan, line the inside of your square pan with parchment paper to make the cheesecake easier to remove.
2. Cover pan and refrigerate for one hour.
3. Meanwhile, make filling (see ingredients below).

Ingredients for filling:

(2) 8 ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
Zest of 1 enormous lemon or two large lemons

1. Preheat oven to 325.
2. Combine all filling ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
3. Pour over crust and bake until the cheesecake has set, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Cut into squares and serve with an optional garnish of candied lemon peels or candied lemon slices.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Napa Cabbage and Bean Sprout Wasabi Slaw

This slaw was created because I wanted to get an updated (ok, sexier, or at least more appealing) photo of my teriyaki turkey burgers (; they are delicious, flavorful and so easy to make that I thought they deserved a photo as enticing as they are. I wanted to make an Asian inspired slaw to serve on top of them, so I thought of combining napa cabbage and bean sprouts with a wasabi mayonnaise dressing. The slaw turned out so well I decided to blog about it. Softly crisp sprouts and cabbage in a creamy, tangy mayonnaise, vinegar and wasabi dressing with just a little bit of a kick to it makes a fabulous burger topping, especially for these burgers. What's really great about both of these recipes is that they're both very easy to put together.

Napa Cabbage and Bean Sprout Wasabi Slaw

3 leaves napa cabbage, chiffonaded
2 1/2 ounces bean sprouts
4 green onions (dark green upper stem parts only*), thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 pinches sugar
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1. Combine mayonnaise, wasabi powder, sesame oil, vinegar, mirin, sugar and salt in a small bowl to create dressing. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Cover and set in the fridge to allow flavors to combine.
2. Meanwhile combine cabbage, green onion and bean sprouts in a larger bowl.
3. After the dressing has been in the fridge for 20 minutes, pour over vegetables and toss well to combine. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the slaw and mix in gently. Serve alongside or on top of burgers.

*grill the leftover white/light green parts and put them on burgers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Roasted Garlic, Cannelini Bean and Kale Soup

One thing I should mention about this cannelini bean soup is that it is rather a different dish from my Tuscan Cannelini Bean Stew. In what ways? Well, the beans are pureed, which is less rustic and more sophisticated. And it isn’t quite hearty enough to be an entree, even if it is rather filling. It’s also delicious and a perfect starter or quick lunch for a meatless Monday. The inspiration is partly from a delicious bean and roasted garlic soup I had at a cafe here and partly inspired by our house falling sick. Thankfully, we’re both on the mend, but in the meantime it was nice to have something as nourishing and filling as it is tasty in the fridge. Sweet and pungent roasted garlic is a great complement to creamy, nutty pureed cannelini beans and bitterly earthy kale. We enjoyed this alongside grilled pork sausages and it was a really amazing meal. Also, it was incredibly easy to make.

Roasted Garlic, Cannelini Bean and Kale Soup

(makes 6 servings)

2 ½ cups cooked cannelini beans*
1 head of garlic, roasted
8 ounces kale, washed, stems trimmed and chopped into 1” pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
2 cups water
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste

1. While the beans are still warm from being cooked, combine in blender with water, stock, garlic and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, add olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.
3. Add kale and saute 3 or so minutes, until it has started to turn color, but is still tender.
4. Add pureed bean mixture and cook until soup is heated through.Serve garnished with parmesan.

*I cooked my own beans, but if you’re using canned drain and rinse them

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Rosemary Garlic Cheddar Chicken Roulade

I don’t have a curing chamber, but I do love me some fancy lunch meats. Hmm...what to do? I remembered a long-ago experiment by my then roommate (also my foodie guru) where she made a garlic and rosemary roulade with some fantastic biodynamically organic chicken breasts and I had the idea of using the roulade slices on a sandwich. They were amazing. Remembering that long ago chicken dish, I decided that would be a fabulous and fairly simple way to create for myself some fancy lunch meats. So, here we are. Rosemary, Garlic and Cheddar Roulade. Butterflied and tenderized chicken stuffed with a trio of delicious ingredients is perfect on a crunchy roll. Pictured below is the sandwich I made with baby spinach and mayonnaise. Really worth the effort!

Rosemary Garlic Cheddar Chicken Roulade

Makes enough for 4 -6 sandwiches

4 chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin (about ¼” thick)
3 large sprigs of rosemary, woody stems discarded and leaves chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated
2 - 3 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Spread a thin layer of cheese over one side of each chicken breast, then sprinkle all over with rosemary and garlic. Starting from the thinnest side of the breast, roll up tightly. Secure with kitchen twine along the length of the roulade approximately every 1 - 1.5”.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add olive oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan over medium heat. Sear the wrapped chicken (roulades) on all sides, about 10 minutes total cooktime.
Transfer chicken roulades to a baking dish and bake in oven for an extra 10 -15 minutes, or until thermometer shows internal temp to be 165 degrees.
Slice into approx ¾” rounds and use in sandwiches.