Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Young Dreams

Not so very long ago, Thatboy and I were meeting some friends for dinner. Believing we had arrived early (but that's a story for another time) we ducked into a little bookstore. As I went through the shelves, looking at old books, I came across Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl. This is a book that was recommended to me by more than one person and so I snatched it up and put it in my "to be read" pile.

Garlic and Sapphires is about Reichl's life as a food critic for the New York Times. In order to review restaurants effectively without getting specialized treatment, Reichl dons crazy costume after crazy character. She begins to review restaurants that don't fit the New York Time's cookie-cutter profile for 4 star restaurants. And because her life revolves around food, Reichl includes recipes instead of pictures. Some of the recipes are inspired by dishes at the restaurant she reviews, others are family favorites, still other reflect a certain mood or feeling.

I decided it wasn't enough for me to simply read the book - I want to cook along. It's kinda like one of those sing along videos I used to watch as a child. There's just nothing like participation! So as I read through the book I'll post the recipes as I make them (well, it'll be off a couple days because stupid blogger didn't want to upload pictures last night)

The first recipe documents Reichl's move from Los Angeles to New York when she took the job. She made something that was quintessential New York - cheesecake. Oooohhhhhhh New York Cheesecake. I have to tell you, even typing those words brings drool to my lips. I was lucky enough to grow up with New York cheesecake on a regular basis - dripping with strawberries. A slice large enough to feed my entire family of four.

Needless to say I was very excited to make this recipe. Perhaps too excited. Perhaps so excited that I misread the directions and put in 1 cup of sugar into the crust instead of 1/4 cup. Let's just say it was a very sweet crust. I also couldn't find gum-less cream cheese, so I used regular cream cheese.

I'll give you the same warning as I gave Thatboy - New York cheesecake is unlike any cheesecake you may find at your local restaurant. It's dense and that denseness is what makes it sooooo rich. This cheesecake captured all the flavor of a New York cheesecake, but wasn't quite as dense - I'm not sure if it was because I overmixed it, or the cream cheese with gum. Even though it wasn't dense, it was amazingly good. Thatboy begrudgingly took a slice since he doesn't like cheesecake. Or at least, he didn't think he liked cheesecake. One bite of this and he turned to me and said "This is really good. This is the best cheesecake I've ever had."


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 6 ounces)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, preferably without gum, at room temperature
4 eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla
grated zest of one lemon
2 cups sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the graham crackers with 1/4 cup sugar and the melted butter and press into bottom and sides of a 9-inch ungreased springform pan. Chill while preparing filling.

Beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, 2 teaspoons of the vanilla, and lemon zest until smooth. Pour into chilled crust and bake 50 minutes to an hour, or until the cheese is set and starting to turn golden in spots. Remove from the oven (leave oven on) and cool for about 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Stir together the sour cream, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, remaining teaspoon of vanilla and spread over cooled cake. Return to oven for 12 minutes until glossy and set.

Cool completely, cover, and chill at least 8 hours.

The recipe "claims" it serves 8, so here's the nutrition info for each "serving" but honestly - if you can eat a whole eighth of this cake, I'd be impressed. Thatboy and I split a piece and that was more than enough for us.

Calories 789.8
Total Fat 62.3 g

Saturated Fat 35.5 g

Polyunsaturated Fat 4.1 g

Monounsaturated Fat 19.1 g
Cholesterol 256.2 mg
Sodium 465.3 mg
Potassium 243.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 47.3 g

Dietary Fiber 0.4 g

Sugars 35.2 g
Protein 12.6 g


  1. I really didn't need to see the fat in that!

  2. You can never go wrong with a classic(I am avoiding looking at the nutritional info!)

  3. Yeah, my only compliant about this post is that you bothered to put in the nutritional information. That is one of those numbers you're just as happy to go through life not knowing... like the amount of interest you'll pay on a 30 year mortgage. Life is happier if you just ingore it... :)

  4. AHHH! OH MY GOSH! Seriously, I have DIED and gone to HEAVEN! NY style cheesecake is my ULTIMATE favorite dessert of all time and this looks AMAZING!!!

  5. Oh I am so glad you are reading the book! How do you like it so far?

    Cheesecake... well can there BE a more perfect dessert???? It really has to be in my top 3. I so salivating right now. And so curious to see how all the recipes you try come out. Lazy me... haven't tried ANY of them!

  6. Oooh this looks tasty. I remember wanting to try this recipe when I read the book (which I love, btw). NY Cheesecake is THE BEST.

  7. Forgot to say that if you don't think I could eat 1/8 of this cheesecake, you don't know who you're dealing with. ;)

  8. So that's what you were doing in the book store while I was getting drunk. lol.

    And I agree with everyone else, why the nutritional info?! ;)

  9. This looks delicious! Cheesecake is calorie free silly. ;)

  10. Holy moly, that is some cheesecake!

  11. I have no idea what gumless cream cheese is. What is the gum? What does it do? Anyone?

    Anyhoo, that looks great--although I confess I am one who prefers light and fluffy cheesecakes. But I don't turn down any cheesecake. :)

  12. i'm going to start calling you julia ;) i'm all for the "cook the cookbook" blogs. you know this!

    looks fabulous!

  13. mmmmm, cheesecake. cream cheese + anything = happy wan.

  14. Now I understand - I was catching up on your posts in my reader and couldn't figure out where all of these references to Reichl were coming from. Very ambitious undertaking.

  15. That looks so decadent...did you save me a piece? ;-)