May 28, 2007

BLT Cheesecake with Lemon Aioli

Despite having worked all weekend and feeling physically exhausted, I was restless when I got home from the winery last night. So, I decided to cook since cooking has lately given me a feeling of calm satisfaction.

At 8:30 pm, I started making this BLT cheesecake recipe that I’ve had saved for a while now. I figured that I could lunch on it the rest of the week. It begins with a wheat cracker & butter crust that is baked for about 10 minutes. Right away I was skeptical. The recipe said to mix the cracker crumbs and melted butter in the food processor before pressing it into the springform pan. But all the butter stayed on the bottom of the bowl, and I guess I was too brain fried to think to mix it by hand. The crust, therefore, seemed weak and crumbly.

Nevertheless, I forged onward.

The filling is made from one pound of cream cheese, 15 ounces of whole milk ricotta, a cup of sour cream, four eggs, an entire package of cooked bacon, a half cup of sundried tomatoes packed in oil, some shallots, chives, salt, and pepper.

This is no diet food, my friends.

I poured the mixture into the prepared crust and baked it for over an hour, until the filling was set and the top was lightly browned. Then, I let it cool while I made the lemon aioli. I was nervous about this part, as I’ve heard that mayo (aioli is basically mayo with garlic) is somewhat difficult to make. But, it was a breeze! I pureed crushed garlic, 2 egg yolks, and some lemon juice in the food processor, then I slowly drizzled in a cup of olive oil. It came together nicely. I added some seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne, oregano) and a little water to thin it out a bit. And, I have to admit...I was totally impressed with myself.

At 10:30, everything was ready to eat. I put some baby greens on a plate, topped it with a slice of the cheesecake, sprinkled on some chopped tomato, then spooned on some of the aioli. I felt a little like Julie Powell. She was always writing about cooking dinner for hours and not eating until late, sometimes around midnight.

The cheesecake tasted good, but was still warm so it had the texture of soft scrambled eggs. (The recipe says to let it cool 1-2 hours). The bacony flavor contrasted well with the cool lettuce (though, I think a crispier lettuce would be better) & tomatoes and the creamy, tangy mayo.

This morning, I tried another piece for breakfast. The cheesecake had cooled in the fridge and now had a very dense texture, much like you’d expect of cheesecake. And the aioli was still melded together, no separation at all, and the flavors had time to come together. It was delicious, refreshing despite the richness.

So, I have to pat myself on the back for this one. No disasters. Even that crumbly crust held together and looked absolutely gorgeous when the springform pan was removed.

I am so excited about this that I am going to have to make a dessert cheesecake very soon. I am thinking about blueberry swirl.....

May 16, 2007

$250 Cookies

We've all heard this story: A mother and her daughter have lunch at Neiman Marcus where they order the chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The mother likes it so much that she asks to buy the recipe. The server tells her it costs "two fifty." Thinking it was only $2.50, the mother tells the server to put it on her tab. When she got her credit card bill, she noticed that she had actually been charged $250.00. As revenge, she circulated the infamous cookie recipe all over the Internet:

2 cups butter
2 tsp. soda
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure & blend to a fine powder)
2 cups brown sugar
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Makes 112 cookies (recipe may be halved).

Apparently, this story is totally bogus. According to, the story was associated with Mrs. Fields in the 1980s and is "a variant of a popular tale that Jan Brunvand has traced as far back as 1948, when the overpriced recipe yielded a red velvet fudge cake and the amount allegedly charged was $25. " tells of other versions of this urban legend. They also explain that Neiman Marcus didn't even sell a cookie then; they only do now as a response to the legend, and that recipe is available on their website (it looks like a basic chocolate chip cookie with espresso powder added).

Ok, so, I decided to make those infamous $250 cookies and see if they are really that good (even if they are not really from Neiman Marcus). It's a cool day and I have nothing to do...what better than to bake up some comfort food!

It's a pretty step-intensive process for cookies with the blending the oatmeal, then the chocolate bars. It makes a fairly dense dough, which I'll admit is pretty tasty raw...very oatmeally and chocolatey.

The first batch burned on the bottom (though a few were salvaged and tasted pretty good warm from the oven...a hearty, melty texture with all the stuff in there). And because I rolled the dough into balls, the cookies didn't spread much. So, for the second batch, I lowered the oven temp to 350, spooned the dough onto the pan like you normally would for chocolate chip cookies, and cooked them for 9 minutes. They looked alot better--perfect actually--only lightly browned on the edges and bottoms.

All in all, I give this recipe two YUMS up! (I know, I know, gimme a break...all I've consumed today is caffeine and cookies!)

I baked the cookies a dozen at a time, and I have to say that spending an afternoon baking and drinking cups of tea has been very relaxing. Soul nourshing, in fact. I feel accomplished.

Now...what the fuck am I going to do with all these cookies?

I am going to get showered & dressed then deliver a couple dozen to my friend's father who came home from the hospital yesterday after having cancer removed. I'll save the rest for my girlfriends who are coming over tomorrow to hang by the pool with me.

And that feels soul nourshing as well.

May 10, 2007

Chicken/Green Chili Nachos & Mango Margaritas

I was in the mood for Mexican last week. I was scheduled to work on Cinco de Mayo (the Drinko de Mayo pub crawl in Grafton....ick). I decided to make these chicken/green chili nachos that I saw Hot Tyler (aka Tyler Florence) make on Food 911 (Food Network) a while ago.

I must say, for nachos, it’s a complicated recipe. First, you have to make a salsa verde by boiling a few tomatilloes, jalepenos, & onions, then food processoring them up with cilantro and garlic (I was so tempted to just buy a jar of salsa verde, but in the spirit of this project, I went ahead and made my own...substituting parsley for the cilantro, though. I have that gene that makes cilantro taste metallic. Not good). Then, you make a cheese sauce that starts with a roux (butter and flour), to which you add chicken stock (not milk?) and eventually shredded jack cheese. When it’s thick, you mix in the salsa. This concoction gets multi-layered in a casserole with tortilla chips & shredded roasted chicken then baked.

Sounds good, right?

Well, there were some problems. When I make this recipe again, I wouldn’t boil the veggies for the salsa. It made it too watery, even though I left out the quarter cup of water the recipe said to add to the puree. I would just have blended everything WITH the water to make a nice, chunky salsa. Likewise, the cheese sauce was too thin, even though I added about a cup more cheese than what was called for. I would cut back the stock and add even more cheese. For nachos, that sauce should be THICK. Don’t get me wrong...the salsa verde/cheese mixture tasted good. It was just way too thin, and it ultimately made the nachos soggy.

And, why the baking? Why not just layer it all together, top it all off with lots of shredded cheese, then zap it under the broiler for a bit?

Nevertheless, despite the sogginess, it was still tasty. Just more like chicken/green chili/tortilla chip casserole than nachos.

On to the margaritas. Frozen mango margaritas just seemed like perfect compliment to the spicy layeredy chippiness. I figured I would just have to add some diced, fresh mango to the blender with the usual margaritas ingredients. So, I bought a few mangoes at the store. I should have noticed that the fruits were green instead of the orangey color that mangoes are supposed to be. But, I didn’t think about that...until I cut into one and noticed that something didn’t seem quite right.

These mangoes were completely unripe. Hmmmm. I decided to go ahead with the plan anyway. Once blended, they wouldn’t be all that bad, right? Wrong. I got the ice consistency right, but they were too weak and the bits of sour mango were not all that pleasant.

Oh well. I’ll have to try these two things again sometime, I guess.

May 1, 2007

Morels for Breakfast

Hunting for morel mushrooms is a big deal around here. People will trapse around their secret spots in search of that elusive fungi. All the talk for the last month was about how much a recent freeze affected the 'shroom growth.

I've never mushroom hunted or cook fresh morels, but last week a friend of mine gave me a few mushrooms he had found. So, one morning I sliced up and sauteed them in a little butter, then ate them on the side with scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast.

And I have to say...

...I wasn't all that impressed.

I like mushrooms, but I didn't like the taste or texture of the morels. Maybe it was the way I cooked them. Maybe they weren't dry enough. Maybe I used too much butter. Maybe they sat a little too long while I cooked the eggs.

I've been told that fried morels is the way to go. So, maybe I'll try that sometime. Hell, maybe I'll just do a little mushroom hunting myself soon.