September 18, 2010

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

I hear (or so I've been told) that "life events" come in waves. Engagements, weddings, golden birthdays, promotions, 10 yr HS reunions, babies, etc -- they're all starting to trickle in lately. Not that I can complain. Who doesn't love birthday cakes? Or an excuse to see old friends? Or all the free booze at weddings (best life event ever!)??

Anyway, one of our friends recently hit a huge milestone that definitely warranted celebration -- becoming homeowners in Alameda! Though this actually happened late last year, they just had their housewarming party the other weekend (better late than never, right?), and we were tasked with bringing a dessert.

I decided to make these because they are #1 relatively quick and easy and #2, deliciously tart and creamy. Call me crazy but when it's hot outside, the last thing I want to eat is something heavy, rich, and chocolate-y. These dainty cheesecake bars are refreshingly light and simple, and make the perfect finger food. The buttery graham cracker crust offsets the smooth tart filling wonderfully, and the fresh berries add a bit of "summer" to each bite.

Speaking of which....when did it suddenly become Fall?? Next thing I know, we'll be 50.

Lemon Cheesecake Squares
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2009

9 whole graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh berries
[note: you can also double the filling to make it more like a cheesecake, rather than cheesecake bar cookie]

For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Fold 16-inch long piece of foil to 8x16-inch strip; place in 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan, leaving overhang on 2 sides. Repeat with another sheet of foil in opposite direction, lining pan completely. Butter foil.

Place graham crackers in heavy-duty plastic bag. Using rolling pin or mallet, crush crackers finely. Melt butter in medium skillet over low heat. Remove from heat; add crumbs and toss to coat. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until deep golden, about 12 minutes. Cool crust while preparing filling.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and sour cream, then lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla. Spread batter over crust.

Bake cheesecake until slightly puffed and set in center, about 25 minutes; cool completely in pan on rack. Chill cheesecake until cold, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; keep chilled.

Using foil overhang as aid, lift cheesecake from pan. Cut into 16 squares; arrange on platter. Top each square with a small dollop of whipped cream and berry on top. Chill until ready to serve, up to 3 hours. Serve chilled.

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September 07, 2010

Terrorized Steak + Camping

There's camping...and then there's camping -- where more than half your car is loaded with food, and every meal/snack/treat is meticulously planned out to negate any possibility of starving. What, it's the GREAT OUTDOORS!! No grocery stores, food stands, restaurants, or convenience stores. You better believe we're gonna come prepared :P

We've been camping before, but we brought out the big guns this time. I'm talking homemade chili, tuna salad, coffee cake, ingredients for smores (OD'ed on them every night!), cheese, cold cuts, wine (a camping essential), fresh produce, ramen, 18 rabbit bars (best things EVER), chips/cookies and of course, this glorious meat: terrorized steak.

Terrorized is such an interesting word to describe/name a steak, but I swear -- it has its valid reasons. An excessive amount of garlic, spicy red chili flakes, and fresh herbs in the wet rub "terrorize" the meat with flavor. And after marinading overnight, the steaks are then "terrorized" a second time over high heat for a nice, smoky char. The real secret to the recipe's success, however, comes next: once the steaks are almost done, you remove them from the heat for about 15 minutes to allow the juices to evenly distribute throughout the meat. Put them back on the grill for 1-2 more minutes, and you have this wonderfully flavorful steak that is both crusty on the outside and juicy on the inside.

We were hoping that the aroma of steaks would attract more bears to our campsite. But I guess one sighting was enough for the trip ;)

Terrorized Steak
Recipe adapted from Rose Pistola

1/2 C fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1/4 C chopped fresh marjoram
1/4 C garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/6 C dried red pepper flakes
1 t salt
1/8 C ground black pepper
3/4 C olive oil
4 New York steaks

Combine rosemary, marjoram, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in olive oil. Place steaks in a ziplock bag, and pour in marinade. Turn steaks over several times to ensure that they are well coated. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare grill or broiler. Rub off excess marinade from steaks. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer to a platter and let sit for about 15 minutes. Return steaks to grill and finish cooking, about 1-2 more minutes on each side.
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