My sixth birthday present was a dog, a gentlemanly terrier who was, for the most part, a very easy-going guy.
We had been persuaded by someone, maybe the breeder or some wise friend, that a mixture of wet and dry food was the right thing to feed him. We had been persuaded. He had not. So every evening we would mix that up for him, and every evening he would snarf down all the wet food and leave the dry, sorting on the fly at a pretty considerable rate of speed, given his impressive accuracy. No kibble passed his little black lips. Henceforth into eternity, rejecting some ingredient that is enmeshed in one’s meal became known, in my family of origin, as “kibble-rejecting.”
In a nice restaurant once, my husband caught me kibble-rejecting in my salad, kicking the scratchy fronds of frisée to the curb of the bowl. “What are you doing?” he inquired, and I explained that I believe frisée to be more suitable for scrubbing stubborn stains off the sink than for eating. He was shocked. “You eat anything the mower kicks up,” he remarked, speaking in his fond way of my habit of foraging for wild greens, “but there is something served in a salad bowl that you don’t want?”
I do like a weed. Even when I am in the kitchen doldrums, it’s hard not to get excited about filling up on vegetables that volunteer in the yard. And the transition from forking over $3.49 for a plastic jewel case of thyme in the stupor market so I can use one sprig (then hoping I can use the remainder in something before I rediscover it, all slimy, behind the carrots in the crisper) to being able to trot out in my socks to pick fresh herbs as needed is also a welcome one. The sage and the chives and the oregano and the thyme and the mint, bless its weedy determination to survive, are all back with bells on.
We are eating a lot of mint. In one very successful episode of “Holy Mackerel, It’s Dinner Again” this past week, I stir-fried some asparagus in olive oil with a minced clove of garlic, a minced hunk of preserved lemon and a heaping wad of chopped mint. That episode made it into re-runs (but not into photos, sadly).
Then, in a sharp break with vegetables and health food, the mint reared its head into dessert. For various reasons, it became necessary to make a cheesecake. Unless you are severely deficient in calcium and struggling to put weight on, I am not sure there are many compelling health-based reasons to eat cheesecake often. But sometimes (especially when there is too much cream cheese in the refrigerator), you have to have one.
I fiddled with the Holy Absolute of cheesecakes, which is Rose Levy Berenbaum’s, and took it to a party. Oh, I better take a picture of this, I kept thinking, and then getting distracted. And then it was set out for people to eat, and by employing a few of the techniques made famous in the sport of roller derby, I was able to get this magazine-quality portrait for you.
I will have to make it again, I thought with not much resistance (just so we can get a picture of it, of course), and I just did, but timed the baking exactly wrong, so that I had to rely on the kindness of others in the house to turn off the oven while I ran to pick up some children. Will I never learn? Never do this. Never. It does not lead to a happy place.
So be it. No one except the people who run the cheesecake-scooping concession in the New Orleans airport (they serve it in cones) needs to make three cheesecakes in a month. The ratty picture stands.
- 1 pound sour cream
- a handful of fresh mint, leaves only (tough stems removed)—a loosely-packed ¾ cup of leaves, say
- 2 8-pz pkgs cream cheese
- 1 c sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 2T cornstarch
- 1t finely grated lime zest
- 3T fresh lime juice
- 1t vanilla
- pinch of salt
Having all the ingredients about room temperature is a good idea.
Butter a 10” springform pan, line the base with parchment paper, and if you have any doubts about the security of your pan’s seal, wrap the outside in foil. My pan snaps shut like a bear trap, so this was not necessary. Set it into a pan deep enough to accommodate it, plus an inch of water. Heat the oven to 350, and get a kettle of water ready to heat.
In a blender, whizz the mint with about half a cup of the sour cream, until quite well-blended, and reserve. Heat the water.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth, and beat in the sugar; continue beating for about a minute. Add the cornstarch, then the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the sides of the bowl after each. Utter smoothness is the goal. Add the salt, vanilla and lime juice & zest, then the sour cream (plain and minty). When it’s all quite smooth, pour it into the pan, surround the pan with that inch of hot water, and slide it into the oven. Bake, undisturbed, for 45 minutes (NO MORE, oh ye faithless, feckless oven-watchers), and then, leaving the oven closed, turn the heat off and let it hang out in the oven for another hour.
Remove the pan from its water bath and let the cake cool another hour at room temperature. Then cover the top closely to prevent absorption of stinky things in the fridge, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Run a thin knife around the edges of the pan, release the bear trap, and garnish with some additional mint leaves before presenting it to the wolverines.