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On my recent road trip, I visited one of my local libraries and borrowed 5 books on tape. We listened to 3 of them. I’m a big fan of Craig Johnson, the author of a series of mysteries taking place in Wyoming, and a TV series on Netflix called Longmire. This book, A Serpent’s Tooth: A Longmire Mystery was really complex. Hard to explain, but it’s about graft and greed and oil. Worth reading, for sure. Also read Stone Kiss by Faye Kellerman, another complex mystery about Lt Decker, an LA cop who journeys to NYC to help out his family when a murder occurs. Lots of violence in this one.  Not particularly a fav book, I’d venture. Then read Leaving Time: A Novel by Jodi Picoult. I’ve read most of her books – always very riveting. In this book, you’ll learn a whole lot about elephants since the protagonist in it is a young girl whose mother disappeared when she was quite young. Her parents ran an elephant sanctuary in New Hampshire. In the ensuing years, Jenna has tried to find clues as to her mother’s whereabouts because she just cannot believe her mother would have up and abandoned her. There are a whole cast of characters (her mother, her father, employees at the sanctuary, a cop or two, and a psychic). All play fairly prominent roles. Fascinating book – I really liked it, almost as much for the education about the behavior of elephants as about the mystery. A great read.

Also on the trip, I read a book (on Kindle) for one of my book clubs, The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. It’s about the relationship between Truman Capote and his “swans,” a group of aging high society ladies, and specifically Beth Paley. I don’t know whether to recommend this book or not. Truman Capote was not a nice man, although the whole novel (vs. non-fiction, which this is not) is conjured from speculation about the years Truman was kind of adopted by the group of women. He cared about all of them (most were married/divorced, wealthy women) but in the end he betrays them all by writing a novella about their secrets, their marriages, their affairs (theirs or their spouses, information they’d all shared with him, thinking he could be trusted with their innermost secrets). It was scandalous, and yes, all that part is true. I finished the book, but almost felt like I’d read a “dirty book.” There is no graphic detail in this book – it’s just what Capote did to destroy these women, supposedly his dear, darling “swans.” He was the villain in the book, and in his old age . . . well, I won’t spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it.

I’ve written up an entire blog post about this book. (It hasn’t been posted yet, but will soon.) It may be one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a memoir by Pat Conroy (an author I’ve long admired). He died a year or so ago – sad, that. In order to get the most out of My Reading Life, I recommend you BUY THE HARDBACK. I can’t say enough good things about this book. It’s an autobiography of sorts, but not really. He never wrote one, I don’t think, and I doubt he would ever have written one as he likely didn’t believe anyone would want to read about his (sad) life. In this memoir, he chronicles the books (and the people who recommended them) that influenced his life. Starting at his mother’s knees and continuing through influential teachers and mentors and friends. One of my book clubs read it, and I devoured it, cover to cover, with little plastic flags inserted all the way through to re-read some of the prose. Pat Conroy was a fabulous writer – he studied words from a young age and used them widely and wisely throughout his writing, but better than most authors would. He adored his mother, and hated (with venom) his aviator military father who physically abused everyone in the family, including his mother. They all took it like stoic Buddhas. I’m going to have to read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel because of reading this book. I’ve never read it. Conroy says that book’s first page is the best first page of any book he ever read in his life. Wow. And maybe my book group is going to re-read Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Vintage Classics) too because of the chapter on that book. We might have to assign that to a 2-month or longer read. If you have friends or family who are avid readers, this would make a great gift, this book, My Reading Life. If YOU are a reader, it needs to be on your bookshelf, but in hardback, so you can go back to it and re-read his stories. It’s a series of essays, each one about a sub-section of his life. A must-have and a must-read.

Also read The Towers of Tuscany by Carol Cram. It was a bargain book through amazon or bookbub (e-book). Back in the Middle Ages women were forbidden to be artists. Their only place was in the home, caring for children and sewing and cooking. But the heroine in this book was taught to paint by her widowed artist-father (in secret, of course). When her father suddenly dies, all hell breaks loose and she must fend for herself. Much of the book takes place in Siena (and also San Gimignano) as she disguises herself as a boy in order to continue her life’s passion – painting. Very interesting story and worth reading.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on December 23rd, 2007.

To tell you the truth, cheesecake isn’t something I order except on very rare occasions. Nor do I make it very often. Usually it’s just too rich for me. Especially if I’ve eaten a big dinner. My daughter, Sara, makes a really good cheesecake, and I enjoy it every time she makes it. She’s quite legendary in some parts of her family for her cheesecake. Her husband and his family often request it for family gatherings.

Here's the batter, thick and silky smooth (the cream cheese, sour cream, etc.)

But, THIS cheesecake I’m sharing with you today, is something altogether different. I must say that this has all the trappings of regular cheesecake. So how come it’s different? Well, you whip up the six egg whites until stiff and fold them into the cheesecake filling. It lightens up the texture considerably. I like this lighter, almost a souffle-like, style. You slice your fork into a bite and it meets little resistance and melts in your mouth. There’s a hint of lemon in it. Maybe next time I ought to add a bit of lemon zest to the filling too. I’ve never seen another cheesecake recipe that uses whipped egg whites. I’ve searched on the internet to try to find the origin of this recipe, but have found nothing.

Fine print: whatever you do, don’t go reading the nutrition content of this recipe, or you’ll never make this cheesecake. You’ll get depressed even thinking about it.

Springform pans: I own two. An 8 1/2 inch and a 10 inch. This recipe calls for a 9 inch. What to do? This time I used the smaller one and had enough to make another entire small bowl of cheesecake. Next time I guess I should use the 10 inch form. Definitely I’d need to make more crumbs, however. I already do that as it is, using about 3 cups of graham cracker crumbs in the mixture. And more butter. No additional sugar.

Folding the egg whites in is a bit of a chore, but lightens up the batter a lot.

This cheesecake is baked for an hour, then left in the oven for an additional hour (heat turned off) to firm up. Then you remove it to cool further. Having made this several times, I will tell you that it’s absolutely the best, cut and served when it’s still warm. Not hot. Just warm. If you have the time to plan it, serve it that way.

You can also make it several hours ahead, then put it back in a low oven for about 15 minutes. You don’t want to dry it out, whatever you do.

We invited our Southern California children and the grandchildren to come for dinner last night. To open our gifts and celebrate Christmas with them. I served a ricotta lasagna with marinara sauce, a big green salad with my favorite salad dressing, the VIP dressing, and this cheesecake for dessert.

gourmetcheesecakeinthepanIt’s poured in the graham cracker crumb crust and topped with toasted almonds. I over-toasted the almonds (sheepish grin).

printer-friendly PDF

Gourmet Cheesecake

Recipe: came from a friend I met in Oklahoma, about 1974.
Servings: 12

1/4 cup blanched almonds — toasted
CRUMB MIXTURE:
2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter
FILLING:
6 whole eggs — separated
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese — softened
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
8 tablespoons flour — sifted
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice — fresh
3/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Toast almonds first and set aside.
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar together and press into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch spring form pan, reserving about 3 T for top of cheesecake. Set aside.
3. Mix egg yolks, 3/4 cup sugar, cream cheese, flour, sour cream and lemon juice and beat until smooth.
4. Beat egg whites until frothy, then add 3/4 cup sugar gradually and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into cheese mixture. Pour into reserved graham cracker shell, spread top to flatten and sprinkle with reserved graham cracker mixture and almonds.
5. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off heat and leave cheesecake in the oven for another hour. Remove to cool. Best when served barely warm from the oven.
Per Serving: 577 Calories; 37g Fat (57.6% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 51g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 197mg Cholesterol; 383mg Sodium.

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  1. Britt-Arnhild

    said on December 24th, 2007:

    Mmmmm, this looks like the perfect cheese cake.

    Merry Christmas to you.

  2. Toffeeapple

    said on December 24th, 2007:

    I just wanted to wish you and yours a very happy Christmas and New Year.

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