Saturday, February 17, 2007


My husband's grandparents consolidated houses not long ago, giving up their Houston house and moving certain items to Florida. Other things, they just wanted to get rid of completely. We visited at around this time to help out, and got a bunch of things they didn't want to take with them. This included a few paintings and some pantry goods, but also a bunch of small paperback cookbooks and, get this, his grandmother's stash of recipes, for probably the last 20 years.

The little books were interesting. There were a couple of unremarkable low-fat or low-sugar books, and a meatless cookbook. Coming from the grandparents' generation and New York City, of course, that doesn't mean no meat, it means no "meat" as in beef or pork. It has interesting ideas, though, like "pate" made of beans and stuff. I haven't taken too close a look at this yet, though.

The recipe stash, though, is full of interesting things. Being from the South, from north TX, all the recipes in the newspapers my whole life have included things like candied ham, or Coca Cola cake, icebox pies, fried chicken, and chicken fried steak. There are often key lime pie recipes, or special Thanksgiving sweet potatoes with brown sugar and little white marshmallows. Recipes that get passed around between friends inevitably include chicken breasts, cream of mushroom soup and instant rice. Maybe some broccoli if we're lucky, but it's frozen broccoli or none at all.

This is why it was refreshing to see a collection of recipes from an 80-year-old Jewish woman from NYC. There were probably 10 recipes for cookies I'd never heard of - hamantaschen and mandelbrots. There were chicken and salad recipes that were fairly unremarkable, and various matzoh recipes for passover. I think matzoh recipes are interesting and somewhat inspired; whenever I was given a restriction in college that required me to do, or not do, a specific obvious and standard thing, I had much more successful results in the finished product, and I believe that was not in spite of, but because of, the restrictions. Matzoh recipes remind me of this, and I hope I'm right, if I someday try them.

I've never seen so many cheesecake recipes, though! So many, including cream cheese, sour cream, cream or cottage cheese; sugar, brown sugar, splenda or nutrasweet; graham cracker crust, regular crumb crust, no crust or chocolate crust. Too many to even try! I don't want to make cheesecake, I told myself when sorting through these various recipes.

Until this week, when I decided I wanted to make cheesecake. Based on what I had at home and had purchased from the store to do this, I made the following from a combination of two recipes (one of which was in mimeograph-purple print!). It turned out nicely, though before it was chilled we (the husband and I) weren't quite sold on the texture, and the crust was far too crumbly. Once chilled overnight, though, it resolved into pretty much proper cheesecake. Next time I might add 8 oz more cream cheese, though.

2 8-oz packages neufchatel cream cheese
1 c sugar
1 c sour cream (the recipe called for 1 pint, so more might be nice)
2 T flour
1 T vanilla
juice from half a lemon
pinch salt
4 eggs


1 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
5 T melted butter
2-3 t sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine crust materials and press into bottom of 9" spring-form pan.
Combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, salt, lemon juice and vanilla in stand mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Pour into crust, and bake for an hour at 350. Turn off oven and open slightly, allowing cheesecake to cool slowly over the next hour to try to prevent cracking (I was unsuccesful and it cracked, but c'est la vie. I think slicing between the pan and the cake so it didn't stick to the pan might have prevented the cracking).

Yay cheesecake! Probably serves 8-10, small-to-medium pieces. The cheesecake was only about an inch tall after it cooled (it was probably 2-3 inches tall in the hot oven), so adding more cream cheese and sour cream might make it a better (bigger) size and still not make it burst over the top of the pan while cooking.


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