March 26, 2007

Spring Grilling and a twist on unbaked cheescake

We've been having unseasonably warm weather lately (upper 70's, usually we're in the low 50's) and I've used this opportunity to get acquainted with the massive gas grill and rotisserie that my parents gave me for Christmas (spring grilling is much more fun than spring cleaning). I've done chicken breasts with just salt and black pepper, ribeye with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika (a new favorite), and this weekend I tried out Elise's Smoked Paprika Chicken on my rotisserie.

The chicken, and the whole meal, turned out great. I supplied the chicken and green salad, while Katie brought some sun-dried tomato and rosemary bread. She also brought some fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes to make a tasty and simple bruschetta.

The real reason for the night's festivities though, was for me to tryout a recipe that I came up with after seeing the Lavender and Lemon Verbena Limeade on A Fridge Full of Food. I remembered a recipe I tested a couple of months ago for Leite's Culinaria, that involved replacing some of the cream cheese with yogurt in an unbaked cheesecake (I would attribute it, but apparently the recipe didn't make the cut and I don't have a copy anymore, leave a comment if you know the author and cookbook and I’ll update this post).

At the time I remembered thinking that the lavender would be better if it was part of the filling, rather than the crust, and I really liked the zing that the yogurt added. When I saw the limeade recipe an idea came together. I would replace all of the cream cheese with yogurt, but I'd drain the yogurt first and I'd put lime and lavender into the filling. I really like gingersnap crusts (which is strange since I don’t really care for gingersnaps), so I decided to make a fresh ginger gingersnap dough to serve as the crust. I served the cheesecake with strawberries that I macerated in lime juice overnight. Everyone really liked the result, but this morning I've found that the crust is all soggy. In the future I might seal the crust with a thin (very thin) layer of white chocolate so that it can’t absorb all the excess moisture from the filling. Once the crust was a little soggy though it reminded me of the cookie part of a Nabisco Fig Newton - I haven’t had one of those for years!

I hope you enjoy the recipe and if anyone tries it, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes.

Lavender Lime Yogurt Cheesecake


About 3 cups drained yogurt (see comments below)

1 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup sugar (divided)

1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers

1 key lime


3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/6 cup molasses (I don't particularly like molasses, so I diluted it with corn syrup)

1/6 cup corn syrup (My liquid measure also doesn't have 1/6 markings so I just eyeballed it and made sure the total of the two was 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (I use a microplane)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt


1 pound strawberries

2 key limes

¼ cup sugar

1. The night before you want to serve the cake, prepare the strawberries.

2. Rinse the strawberries and slice thinly into a container. Zest (with a microplane, you want the zest small) the two limes over the sliced strawberries. Sprinkle the sugar over the zest and strawberries. Juice the two limes and add the juice to the container. Cover the container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Prepare the crust. Preheat oven to 350º.

4. Put butter, molasses, fresh ginger, and crystallized ginger in a mixing bowl. Mix well.

5. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix until all the ingredients are evenly blended.

6. Using your fingers press the dough into 9-inch springform pan. You want a very thin layer on the bottom and a thin layer going evenly up the sides. The dough is sticky so you may need to sprinkle it with some flour as you work. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the dough seems firm. Allow to cool.

7. Prepare the filling. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the lavender as finely as possible. Place in a small bowl. Zest the lime with a microplane and place zest in the same bowl. Juice the lime and mix the juice into the lavender and zest.

8. Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Add the lavender-lime mixture and 1/3 cup sugar. Blend thoroughly.

9. In another cold bowl begin whipping the cream. As the cream begins to thicken sprinkle the sugar into the cream and continue whipping until you have firm peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture until evenly incorporated.

10. Scrap the yogurt/cream mixture into your cooled prepared crust and smooth the top. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 4 hours to firm the texture and make it easier to cut.

11. Cut into slices with a warm knife and serve with a mound of the macerated strawberries.


To prepare the yogurt, line a mesh colander with four layers of damp cheesecloth (get it wet and then wring it out), and place over a large bowl. I had a 32-ounce container of lowfat yogurt and about 2 cups of lowfat yogurt from an open container. I placed all of this in the colander and folded the cheesecloth over the top. Let the yogurt drain for at least 12 hours. I had just over 3 cups of strained yogurt.

March 21, 2007

5 Things...

So, anyone who visited my blog soon after my launch and then recently has noticed that I sort of stopped posting for a few weeks. Then on Sunday I posted as part of the fun blogging event known as Sugar High Fridays. What you don't know is that I did have several postings planned during that intermission, but, despite the best of intentions, I never actually finished any of them (I started writing two of them, but stopped because I couldn't get photos that I was happy with).

So a couple of weeks ago (by which I mean nearly a month ago) I was tagged by the blogger formerly known as D-Man of Sourdough Monkey Wrangler (who is a hilarious writer – so says my fiancé Dana and I must agree) to write about 5 things you don't know about me. So here goes, in no particular order:

The Five Things You Didn’t Know About Me:

  1. I cannot follow a recipe – even when I try. And I have because I test recipes for this fun little site (James Beard award-winning actually) called Leite's Culinaria and we're required to prepare the recipes exactly as written (with one exception, we are allowed to cut a recipe in half). What this ultimately means is I usually try a recipe, fail to follow it, and then I have to make it again to give it a proper review. This does, occasionally, yield tasty alternate versions – like the brownies I made this month where I accidentally left out the baking powder - I like them better that way.
  2. I love my KitchenAid boat motor a.k.a. my 5-quart Professional KitchenAid Mixer complete with pasta and ice cream attachments. The boat motor nomenclature comes courtesy of my in-house marketing guru.
  3. There is one flavor that you will never find in my cooking and that I go to fairly great lengths to avoid in restaurants. I'll shamelessly badger waitresses and waiters to be sure that a meal does not contain this. This hateful flavor hides in several cuisines and comes in several guises – most commonly known as fennel or black licorice. Also, beets taste like sweet dirt and are the only food that makes me want to vomit - blech.
  4. I am an ardent lover of all things pork. My latest passion is for La Quercia prosciutto and speck. You should check them out – high quality pork slowly and carefully transformed into an artisan product that compels me to do my happy dance when it arrives on my doorstep.
  5. I have been reading food blogs for years, but have I never left a comment until I was getting ready to launch my own blog and until now I hadn't responded to any of the comments left on my blog (if this counts as a response). Woot, I just googled Roasting Rambler and my blog pops up at number 5!

Now to help explain my absence from Roasting Rambler over the last few weeks I will share a sample of my poor attempts at food porn. This was a delicious meal and one of the few times that I have (almost) followed a recipe exactly (No recipe, but I'll include a link). I work at a university and have friends both in college and graduated like me. It happened to be spring break and while several friends were cavorting in Italy, I invited Alex (friend and roommate of said friends) and Katie (a long-term substitute Home Ec teacher who just landed her first permanent gig – congrats again!) over for dinner.

Now like other obsessed people I bookmark, cut out, rip out, and copy far more recipes than I ever try, but this particular recipe kept coming back to the top of my list - Asian Pesto Chicken Salad (from Simply Ming and brought to my attention by Leite’s Culinaria). I say I almost followed the recipe in that I did not measure the herbs, per se; instead, I measured by the handful.

I hadn’t intended to use this for the blog, but as we were getting ready to sit down to eat (thanks much to both my companions for their help getting dinner pulled together) I grabbed my camera and snapped a few quick snapshots. The first shot above is probably the better shot because as you can see the shot below is focused on the napkin (have to remember to keep them out of the shots because my mom doesn’t really know how many of those I have walked off with over the years).

March 18, 2007

SHF - Raw Chocolate

Soon after discovering the varied and compelling world of food blogs, I discovered Sugar High Fridays (SHF), as created by the Domestic Goddess (who recently wrote a great two part contemplation on good food requiring effort). Now that I have my blog up and running I decided that it was time that I participated, so I hopped over to Is My Blog Burning (a great resource for food blogging events and a quick history if you don't have any idea what I'm talking about) to find out who was hosting this month's SHF. My timing must have been preordained because I happily discovered that Emily of Chocolate in Context is hosting SHF #29: Raw Chocolate. It just so happened that I had picked up some raw cocoa nibs recently and had been inspired to use them in an adaptation of Michael Chiarello's recipe for Cocoa Caramel Panna Cotta from The Essence of Chocolate.

I must admit that I have never tried panna cotta before (eating or making), so I am happy to say that I was extremely pleased with the result. Mine did not unmold like the picture in book, but I made one in a ceramic bowl, just in case. This was also my first time working with cocoa nibs. I had tried them before in various chocolate bars and bakery treats while traveling, but I could not find a local retailer that carried them. Then I found them at the local coop, but they were raw – most recipes I found called for roasted cocoa nibs, so I bought some, but I kept putting off trying them in something. This SHF left me with no excuses. While I did not attempt to try them in a completely raw recipe (if I want to taste the raw food movement I'll go to a restaurant), I do think that this was a great way to highlight the complex and unusual flavors of raw chocolate.

I developed this recipe for small portions since I developed it during Spring Break and many of my friends are still students and out of town, but I think that it should scale up easily. Small servings are perfect because this dessert is deceptively light for being based on half and half.

Raw Coca Nib Panna Cotta
Serves 4


¼ cup water
1/3 cup granular sugar
½ cup raw cocoa nibs
1 pint half and half
1 ½ teaspoons gelatin

Place half and half and cocoa nibs in a small saucepan and heat to medium until it is steaming (don't let it boil) and take the pan off the heat and cover for 30 minutes.

Combine the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons water in a small bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add the remaining water. Bring to medium heat, and cook, swirling the saucepan occasionally to color the caramel evenly, until a medium amber (I'm never exactly sure what that is either, so if you're not sure it's better to go too light than too dark).

You may want to brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals begin to form (I just purchased a silicon brush and decided that they are great for many uses, but I'm going to keep my old fashioned ones for pastry).

Strain the nibs out of the half and half and add the gelatin and caramel – reheat gently if needed to dissolve the caramel. Divide into four, 4 ounce molds and refrigerate for at least three hours.