Sunday, October 2, 2011

Raspberry Sauce on Mini Cheesecakes and Ice Cream, and Homemade Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese, Tomato and Turkey Bacon Sandwiches

Today's post is special to me because it is my 100th post!  When I started writing this blog this past May, I had no idea it would grow the way it has and that I would make so many new friends.  In just a few short months, I feel that the challenge of cooking, baking, writing and taking photos has enriched my life in so many ways.  Although, my constant daydreaming about recipes I want to create, pots, pans, utensils, kitchen gadgets and cute baking tools and accessories that I really, really need want, how to improve my photography...  does tend to take over when I should be focusing on other things...   I'm so excited to see where it all goes, though.

I'm lucky that my parents' cherry tomato plants have done so well this year - it means they have lots of tomatoes to share with me!  This week I did a little watering for them after work and picked as many ripe cherry tomatoes as I could find, as well as a few cups of raspberries.  I had to brave a few bees and spiders (one very big spider) to get those raspberries, but it was worth it.  Sometimes I still feel like a kid when I go over to their house, and I can't resist peeking in their pantry to see if my dad has any Clif Mountain Mix Mojo bars, one of my favorite healthy snacks.  Of course, he always has them, so I'm never disappointed.

I made a wonderful raspberry sauce with those berries that was really quick and easy, and would be delicious spooned onto biscuits, chocolate muffins, or cheesecake.  And ice cream.  Or raspberry sauce on top of ice cream on top of cheesecake.  This is the sort of dessert I think my sister would just love.

I made these individual lemon raspberry cheesecakes, topped with warm lemon curd and raspberry sauce.  The cheesecakes sank a little in the middle after cooling, which I attribute to the high altitude here, but it didn't really bother me since the lemon curd and raspberry sauce smoothed out the top.  It also made the perfect little indentation for a scoop of ice cream right on top, and I was happy to finally have an excuse to use my little green sorbet glasses I found this summer at an antique store.  Cheesecake freezes very well, so you can just eat one (or two) of these, and freeze the rest for another time, although since the recipe only makes 6, I doubt you'll have any left over.

The cheesecakes were very creamy and slightly sweet, surprisingly light, with a hint of lemon which paired wonderfully with the raspberry sauce, and a simple salted chocolate crust made from crushed chocolate cookies.  Baking them in a muffin tin made 6 perfect individually-sized portions, but it was a little bit of a hassle to cut small pieces of parchment paper to line the bottoms and sides (so that they came out of the pan easily), so if you don't want to mess with that, then they could also be baked in ramekins, and then eaten with a spoon straight from the ramekin.

My mom was also generous enough to let me cut a few of her roses to take home, so they graced some of my photos.  I think I brought a spider home with the roses, though, because I've noticed a few little strands of web around the flowers.

Cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden are so fragrant and sweet and earthy - eating them raw and letting the juices pop open in your mouth is like eating candy.  I picked so many, though, that I wanted to cook them into a sauce or a soup, rather than just eat them throughout the week.

So Monday night I gathered whatever I could find in the fridge - a shallot, some garlic, a little fresh basil...  That's the start of something really wonderful.  I went ahead and made a big batch of tomato basil soup on Monday, with plans for us to eat it Friday night with grilled cheese sandwiches, and then freeze the leftovers for another time.  That's another thing I love about soup - it freezes so well, so that you can always have a little left over to pull out and warm up on nights when you don't feel like cooking.  Or use the leftover soup in a marinara sauce or add to some cooked ground turkey for spaghetti.

I didn't peel all those little tomatoes, or remove the seeds, so if you don't want any lumps in your soup, then you can pour it through a mesh strainer to make it perfectly smooth.  Personally, I like the little bits of tomato peel and seeds - it gives it a rustic appeal.  A pinch of cayenne pepper gave it a little heat, and some freshly cracked pepper and chopped basil on top, with a few drops of cream add a nice touch, too.

I don't think I've ever had a grilled cheese sandwich where the bread wasn't slathered in a thick layer of butter first, so instead of butter I just brushed a little olive oil on the griddle.  The bread was still just as good and crispy, with melted pepper jack and sharp white cheddar cheeses inside, sliced Roma tomatoes, and crispy turkey bacon.  A wonderful fall meal and a wonderful use of the garden produce.

Tomato Basil Soup
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (or more, if you have it)
  • pinch Italian seasoning
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste

In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, until shallot is softened.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the other 2 tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes, basil and Italian seasoning.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes have released their juices and the mixture is very liquidy.  Using an immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth.  Add the cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the tomato paste.

Reduce heat to low and cook for another 15 minutes until thickened and flavors have married.

To serve, garnish with freshly cracked pepper, chopped basil, a dab of cream or grated Parmesan.

Recipe yields 5 cups.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato and Turkey Bacon
  • 4 slices turkey bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 thin slices pepper jack cheese
  • 4 thin slices sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
On a griddle, cook the turkey bacon until crispy.  Assemble the sandwiches, starting and ending with the cheese against the bread:  bread, cheese, tomatoes, basil, bacon, cheese and bread.  Roma tomatoes are a good choice since they are more "meaty" and won't make the sandwiches soggy.

Brush the olive oil on the griddle and cook the sandwiches until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.  Serve with Tomato Basil Soup.

Yields 2 sandwiches.

Raspberry Sauce
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once the mixture is boiling, cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  The mixture should be thick enough to coat a spoon, will have a slightly gelled texture when spooned onto a plate.

Remove from heat and pour into a glass jar to store in the fridge until ready to use.  Spread warm or cold on muffins, biscuits, cheesecake and ice cream.

Yields 1 1/4 cups.

Individual Lemon Raspberry Cheesecakes
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Classic Cheesecake recipe
  • 1 cup finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream or sour cream
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
  • 6 tablespoons lemon curd (store-bought, or homemade - click here for my recipe)
  • 6 tablespoons raspberry sauce (recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Prepare a 6-cup muffin pan by spraying it with non-stick baking spray, then lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper.  To cut circles for the bottom, turn the pan over so that the bottom is facing up, lay a piece of parchment paper on the pan, and trace the outline of the bottom of the muffin cups against the paper with your fingernail, then cut the paper along the outline. Then cut strips of paper to line the sides.  The baking spray will help the paper to stick to the cups.  A silicone muffin pan will work best, because of its flexibility, for easily removing the cheesecakes after they've cooled.  Alternatively, simply use small baking ramekins and then serve the cheesecake in the ramekins.

In a small bowl, toss together the cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt.  Divide between the 6 cups and press down with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly.

Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 4 minutes.  Add the sugar and beat for 4 more minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.  Add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice and mix well.  Add the egg and beat for 1 minute.  Reduce speed to low and mix in the cream.  Fold in the raspberries with a spatula.

Divide the batter between the 6 cups.  Fill them all the way to the top - don't worry, they won't overflow although they will puff slightly while baking.

Set the muffin pan inside a larger baking dish.  Fill the baking dish with very hot tap water, so that it comes halfway up the sides.

Set the baking dish on the middle rack in the oven and bake the cheesecakes at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and slightly cracked.  Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven, then remove the muffin pan from its water bath, and cool on a wire rack for one hour.  Set in the fridge to cool for 3-4 hours.

To serve, carefully remove the cheesecakes from the muffin pan and peel off the parchment paper.  Top each with the lemon curd and raspberry sauce.

Yields 6 servings.