Sunday, January 25, 2015

cheesecake in a jar with passion fruit sauce

The birthday tradition around here is that the birthday girl or boy can choose whatever they like for their birthday dinner  often a brand-new recipe  and the non-birthday spouse will make it.

This year, the birthday boy chose his menu from Japanese Farm Food: fat little teriyaki hamburgers, Japanese rice, carrot and cilantro salad with citrus, and napa cabbage salad with sesame seeds.

Sure, I said, but what about dessert?

He scratched his head and thought for a while.

Then he remembered the perfectly smooth cheesecake and passion fruit sauce we were served in a fancy glass while we sat out on the patio at Cafe Julia in Honolulu a few years ago.

And thus began the great hunt of January 2015 to find passion fruit in Edmonton.

I called the grocery store.

I asked my friend whose parents are from the Caribbean.

I asked my other friend who is an accomplished dessert maker.

Eventually, a little bird called Twitter tracked the elusive passion fruit down, and I was full-steam ahead to make this little dessert.

I've never made a no-bake cheesecake before  essentially, mix some whipped cream cheese with some whipped cream - and it seemed too easy to be true.

But people: it is divine. Light and smooth with a little tang from the cream cheese, and flecks of vanilla seeds rounding it out.

And then the passion fruit sauce.

It is a thing of wonder. Tart and sweet with a few crunchy seeds, it's the perfect thing to sit atop that cloud of cheesecake. (Not to mention so cute in that little jar.)

The birthday boy was pleased, and I'm pleased to have a new go-to dessert recipe. Actually, it was so good that it almost feels like it was my birthday.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: pan de yuca (colombian tapioca buns) and black-eyed peas with kale and bacon
three years ago: tomato sauce with onion and butter and lemon syllabub
four years ago: glorious hummus and rosemary gruyère baked eggs

cheesecake in a jar
slightly adapted from Canadian Living and Charcut
half-fills six jars (leaving you room for sauce or fruit)

1/2 vanilla bean
150 ml. whipping cream
50 g. icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
250 ml. (1 c.) cream cheese, at room temperature

Use a small paring knife to slit the vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds using the dull side of the blade.

In a mixing bowl, combine the vanilla seeds, whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks form, and set aside in the fridge.

In another mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until it's smooth and lightened, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Plop in one-third of the whipped cream and fold it in. Repeat with another third of the whipped cream, and then again with the final third of whipped cream.

Use two teaspoons to carefully spoon the cream cheese mixture into the 6 jars. Cover and put in the fridge until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with a sauce or fruit tossed with a bit of sugar and liqueur.

passion fruit sauce
adapted from Easy Brazilian Recipes

1 c. passion fruit juice
1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
2 passion fruit

Heat the water and sugar over medium heat in a non-reactive pot. Once the sugar has dissolved, cook 3 more minutes. Stir in the passion fruit juice and simmer at a good rate. Stir occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 8  12 minutes. If it doesn't seem thicker after 12 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir to check on it. If it's still not thick enough for you, simmer for 5 more minutes. Again, let it cool and decide if you need to do another 5 minutes.

Once the sauce has cooled completely, scoop out the passion fruit seeds and flesh and stir them into the sauce. Put a few teaspoons on each little cheesecake in a jar and serve immediately.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

chipotle & rosemary spiced nuts

I love fancy nuts.

By fancy, I mean nuts that are lightly glazed and roasted. Oh, and that are exciting enough to make me look forward to them as a mid-morning snack.

Spicy cajun almonds and Gramercy Tavern bar nuts have been favourites around here, but after Christmas, I felt like the new year deserved a new nut recipe.

I found this: Ina Garten's chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts. I had a little bag of fresh rosemary in the fridge and so it felt like fate.

I adapted the recipe to suit my nut tastes (and budget) and I feel particularly pleased about the pistachios I added. They are like little gems of concentrated flavour nestled around the bigger cashews and pecans.

On first glance, the recipe looks a bit odd: chipotle, rosemary, orange juice? I know. But trust Ina here. They are a trio I am now very glad to meet.

So here you are  a new nut recipe for the new year. Feel free to adapt it for the nuts you find in your cupboard.

one year ago: tuscan white beans
two years ago: happy things in the new year and carrot and fennel soup
three years ago: glory bowl
four years ago: naomi's granola

chipotle and rosemary spiced nuts
adapted from Ina Garten on The Kitchn

275 g. (2 c.) unroasted cashews
100 g. (1 c.) unroasted pecan halves
200 g. (1 1/2 c.) unroasted almonds
100 g. (2/3 c.) shelled unroasted pistachios
50 g. (3 tbsp.) maple syrup
25 g. (2 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) brown sugar
2 g. (1 tsp.) ground chipotle powder
32 g. (2 tbsp.) freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
18 g. (1 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt (or 3/4 tsp. regular salt)
later: 1 tsp. Kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and get out a sheet pan or two regular cookie sheets.

Brush the pan(s) a bit of neutral oil. Get out a very large bowl and mix up the cashews, pecans, almonds, pistachios, maple syrup, brown sugar, chipotle powder, orange juice, rosemary, oil and 1 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt.

Spread the nuts out on the pan(s) as evenly as possible and slide into the oven. Roast for 25  28 minutes, stirring twice, until the nuts look glazed and golden brown. Put the pan(s) on a rack to cool and toss with the other 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt.

Stir sometimes as they cool to help prevent the nuts sticking together  although they will anyway. Don't fret: you can break them up later when you put your precious nuts in an airtight container to store. Keep them at room temperature, all the easier to snack upon.