Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Cheesecake, and Christmas Memories

As the year is dwindling down, and Christmas is over, a New Year is awaiting us to start "anew" with a clean slate of resolutions, and promises. Leaving the old year with fond memories, and some sadness...not just what kinds of gifts we got for the holidays, and what parties or events we attended, but thinking ahead for the coming year, of what we can do for each other, to give, and get more BLESSINGS!
After visiting my new and beautiful friend, Jamie's blog @Mangiabella and reading her inspirational posts, and quotes, reminds me, that life is so precious, and that the true joys in our lives are family, and dear friends... let us not forget our faithful pets, and embrace new friends.
I concluded this thought, after leaving Jamie's blog, that:

"Bringing gladness to the hearts of others, and giving of the Greatest Gift of All"...(my quote)

So, I will share my most favorite cheesecake of all, that I make, just about for every special occasion...have memorized the ingredients, and method, to the point that this is seriously a "scientific" method, that you must follow, and not sway from it. It's a New York, or should I say New York Style Cheesecake, that can be left simple, without the sour cream topping, which really gives it a more amazing flavor, and dresses it up, but you can do it without it, because you will not see "cracks" on top of the cheesecake...I promise you that. You can dress this cheesecake up for the summer, with a fresh fruit topping, or for the holiday, as I did, with rainbow, holiday sprinkles, and surround them with handmade chocolate pieces that already has sprinkles on it, from your local chocolate shop, as I did. I'm not going into the "song and dance" recipe, to write it down, I will link the recipe back to this summer, when I made it the last time.
I kid you not...this is a "tried and true" recipe, that you will want to follow, to a T! The only important thing is, you should, and must make it the day before, so it will set nicely. Actually, I made this two days before Christmas, and let it chill nicely in my frig.

So, here's the link, and recipe: New York Style Cheesecake

If you want to please all your family members and dear friends who you have invited to your home for the best lasagne...ever!...and not feel guilty for making a meat sauce, since so many folks have turned vegetarian, or have cut out red meat, or eat less meat, as in a lot of cases, again, I say, this lasagne is a must on your list. My son, and wife have been vegetarians now for a couple years, my son, on-and-off, but for the last few months seriously on!
My daughter Lora  and I made this, the day before, a "real dual labor of love"...(and a few mother-daughter kitchen squabbles)...but all with love. She made the sauce, and "bechamel"...yes, a beautiful rich bechamel, from scratch. Lots of fresh basil, Parmigiana, and sliced...not shredded mozzarella cheese.
Unfortunately, she did not have dried lasagne noodles, neither of us wanted to run to the store at the last minute, on Christmas Eve, late in the afternoon, when all the stores were about to close, so either, we abandon the idea, or make homemade pasta, (without a pasta machine)...both pasta machines, hers and mine were at my house. I was ready to jump in my car, and drive the 7 miles back to my place to get the machine, but she did not let me, and believe me, the only solution I had, was to throw all the flour and eggs into her kitchen aid mixer with the "dough hook" mix it up, and use plenty of "elbow grease" to roll the huge dough. End result...truly amazing!

Recipe for the pasta dough, enough for a huge 10x13 lasagne pan, and extra dough and sauce for a small separate portion. This is my formula for fresh pasta dough, enough for 8 servings.
6 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, and pepper, to taste
Have extra flour to roll it in, at least an additional cup, or two. Mix all the ingredients together, in you mixer, with a dough hook, or even in your bread machine. If you don't have these kitchen wares, then you have to mix it by hand.
It has to be well incorporated, glossy, and shiny; at this point you are either ready to roll the dough to almost the last thinness, or divide dough in half, and roll it into a large cylinder shape fairly thin, but not too thin, cut into large strips with a pizza cutter, or a sharp knife, let it dry a little, adding more flour as you work, so it doesn't get sticky, especially, on the bottom of the dough. Drop a few pieces in a huge pot of boiling water, with a sm. amt. of oil in the water... do not drain the whole thing, just remove each piece one by one, drizzling more olive oil on it, to separate. By this point, you should have your sauces ready to assemble. Starting with a small amount of the red sauce on the bottom, the strips of dough, the bechamel, and the cheeses, ending with the pasta sauce, and cheeses on the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, covered for the first 30 minutes, and uncovered for an additional 20 minutes, or until it bubbles, and gets nice and golden on the top. Let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into it, to serve.
For the sauce: We used a huge restaurant size can, about 64 ounce, of the Contadina crushed tomatoes, and at least 3 cups of bechamel sauce, along with the grated, and sliced mozzarella cheese, that you can slice, yourself (not the fresh buffalo mozzarella) Plenty of fresh basil, just saute a large chopped onion, small amt. of chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and adding the whole basil to the sauce, and rolled up basil leaves, sliced thin, in between the layers of the assembly. The sauce is cooked for about 45 minutes. All vegetarian, and so amazingly yummy!
 OK...Feast your eyes! Although, this dessert to me, is a traditional dessert, perfect for 4th of July...but in this case, NO RULES, just an amazing Pasta Frolla-which is an Italian, sweet tart, filled with custard, and topped with fresh berries. Our dear friend, Ylaria made this...did not ask for the recipe for the frolla, but here's a good one which I use, occasionally. As for the custard, you can google a good one.

Pasta Frolla-Italian Sweet Pastry Dough

  1. 1 In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
  2. 2 Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. 3 Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
  4. 4 Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly, forming into a disk.
  5. 5 Chill, wrapped in plastic at least 1 hour or overnight.
  6. 6 Let the dough stand at room temperature until softened, but still firm enough to roll out
  1. ? Have a question about this recipe? Ask the community.
Ylaria, who is from Bari, Italy, made this amazing tart, and the custard was "to die for" was not pleased as we all are at some point...or most of the time, critical of her own homemade custard, that it wasn't thick enoug. Honest? why would you want a thick and rubbery custard, when you can have the most splendid, "heavenly custard" nestled among the fresh berries that we get all season here, in S. Florida (but more expensive) the pasta frolla=pastry dough was so perfect too, that you wanted to savory every little bite!
For all of us "carnivorous" creatures, a beautiful tray of sliced broiled steak (no waste in slicing) made by my son-in-law, Chef Fabrizio (off at lunchtime) working later. We purchased a gorgeous package of 5 huge rib-eye boneless steaks at Costco, with (2 whole steaks left over) broiled to perfection, topped with fresh tomato bruschetta, over a fresh layer of, my, so perfect for "steak lovers...and like I said, NO WASTE!
My "fluffy" haired grandson, opening a present; look at all the little cars scattered all over the floor, his newest favorite toys!
My sweet " girls" (son's daughters) ...enjoying auntie Lora's cookies!

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