A Southern Grace: October 2010

October 25, 2010

what's black and white and red all over?


No, not a mime wearing lipstick, an embarrassed zebra, a sunburned penguin, a chocolate sundae with ketchup on top (which, might I add, sounds absolutely disgusting), a crossword puzzle done in red ink, or, the sneaky answer, a newspaper.

I'm talking about a surprisingly tasty cheesecake.

As you may remember, cheesecake is not something that makes me swoon. I find it tolerable at best. That said, I will gladly tolerate anything that looks as impressive as this treat, with its lovely layer of thickened raspberry goo, dark chocolate crust, and smooth and creamy cake.

Taste-wise, she ain't too shabby either. The subtle sweet-tartness of the raspberries really does a lot to balance out the tangy cream cheese and deeply decadent chocolate.

My goodness, that palate of mine is just growing up so fast! I guess that's what an unplanned hiatus does for a person. Maybe I should take breaks more often. Heck, the next thing you know, I'll be feasting on haggis, sweetbreads, and maggot cheese...

...but probably not.

Raspberries-to-the-Rescue Cheesecake
(from here)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, partially thawed
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 (9-ounce) package chocolate wafer cookies
1/3 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine raspberries and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil (6 to 10 minutes). Continue boiling 1 minute. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes.
Heat oven to 325°F. Place cookies in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Cover; process until very finely chopped (30 to 40 seconds). Add melted butter; process until smooth (20 to 30 seconds). Press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan; set aside.
Combine sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream and 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Stir in vanilla.
Pour half of cheesecake batter over crust. Spoon filling evenly over batter in pan. Top with remaining cheesecake batter. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until just set 2 inches from edge of pan. Turn off oven; leave cheesecake in oven 2 hours. Remove from oven; loosen sides of cheesecake from pan by running knife around inside of pan. Cool completely (about 2 hours). Loosely cover; refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

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October 18, 2010

it's that time again...


Yep, the pumpkin goodies are out in force.

Here we have yet another example of the growth of my palate (not the roof of the mouth, of course--that'd just be weird--but the whole sense of taste thing) since I've openly declared my distaste for the ubiquitous orange orb in the past. Things, they are a-changin'.

These muffins are awesome. I'll be honest--I think the simple fact that cinnamon* is the prevalent flavor has a lot to do with my high opinion of them. Heck, for all I know, I may still hate pumpkin itself, but the combination of pumpkin and cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg is a winner.

*Speaking of cinnamon, have you seen this? Hilarious.

What's next? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin cookies? Pumpkin flan? Soup? Profiteroles? Challah? Pancakes? Fudge? I've seen 'em all, and I can't decide. What's your favorite (cinnamon-containing) pumpkin product?

Purdy Pumpkin Muffins
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 (16-oz) can (2 cups) pumpkin puree
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin tin.
Combine the sugar and oil in large bowl to blend; mix in the eggs and pumpkin.
Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl; stir into the pumpkin mixture. Mix in the walnuts and raisins.
Divide the batter equally into the cups.
Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.

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October 13, 2010

back with a bang?


Meh, it's more like I'm back with a gentle rat-a-tat.

I had hoped to return to you with an inspired and supremely superior food creation, but alas, you'll just have to settle for one of the most peculiar, interesting, and yes, delicious dishes I've had in quite some time.

Nectarines. I can't say I've ever had much use for them, but they were absolutely key in this simple yet complex side. In fact, I found myself rooting around, trying to make sure every bite contained some of the sweet, juicy fruit. If that didn't happen, the consolation prizes weren't too shabby--crunchy sliced almonds, hunks of salty and tangy feta, toothy chickpeas, bits of sharp scallion, and shreds of verdant basil were also scattered throughout the creamy couscous.*

*Can we say adjective abuse? I think so.

And how pretty is this bowl of yum? I love all the colors, and couscous is always a looker. (As a bonus, it's an extremely fun word to pronounce--have you ever looked at a person's mouth when he says it? Hilarious.)

Creamy and Colorful Couscous

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1 lb couscous or other small pasta
3 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup nectarines, chopped
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the stock and half of the lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the couscous.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper and let cool.
Once the couscous is room temperature, add the remaining components. Toss to combine and serve.

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