Sunday, July 13, 2008

Panzanella & an Amazing Cheesecake

We've had kind of a revolving door of parties and social functions going on around here for the past week and a half. I looked forward to this time for about two months, and it's been great, great fun -- out of town company, a huge 4th of July celebration, my big Four-Oh, dinner with friends in and out of the neighborhood, and a ladies tennis social. This weekend four of my favorite friends from high school came for a visit (an annual event for our little group), and that was a blast too! The partying with everyone was so, soooo much fun. I haven't laughed so hard in the longest time!

However, this morning I woke up and my voice was completely gone....this girl is partied out. I'm having a peaceful and quiet evening tonight at home, and have just enough energy to update the ol' blog. I've got a back log of photos and recipes that I'm going to try to get to this week.

I made these two recipes when my brother and his wife were here a couple of weeks ago. One is for my favorite Panzanella Salad (yep, that's from Ina), and the other is for my mom's cheesecake. People RAVE over this cheesecake, I'm not lyin'! I think the recipe is from 1968 (Mom, you can correct me if I'm wrong); it's tried and true, and you'll love it too.
One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that is has a sour cream topping that can cover a multitude of baking sins (your cracks, namely -- tee hee). I'm not a careful baker and inevitably, my cheesecakes always end up with massive fault lines. This topping disguises those beautifully, and you'll look like a total pro.

Serves: 12
Source: Barefoot Contessa Parties! pp. 102-103

3 T. olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t. kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 T. capers, drained

1 t. finely minced garlic
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
3 T. champagne vinegar (which I could not find, so I used Sherry vinegar instead)
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk the ingredients together. I used my stick blender to get it perfectly emulsified!

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red and yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

My Mom's Cheesecake
Serves: MANY!
Source: A long since gone newspaper clipping circa 1968!

1/2 lb. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. melted butter

1/4 lb. butter, room temperature
3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
5 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla

2 pints sour cream
12 T. sugar
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Mix the crust ingredients together in a medium bowl. Press into and up the sides of a 9x13" pan; bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the butter and cream cheese together until blended. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake for 1 hour, or until center of cheesecake is very slightly jiggly. Cool for 10 minutes but maintain oven temperature.

For the topping, combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and spread over the top of the cheesecake. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before covering and chilling overnight.

**Note: I ALWAYS cut this recipe in half and make it in my 10" springform pan. When cutting it in half, I use three eggs.


EAT! said...

I thought summer was a time for rest and relaxation?! I think we are more busy now than during the school year, but we are having way much more fun with no homework!!! Don't you just love BC recipes. Always good.

Aggie said...

Great looking panzanella and cheesecake!! Hope you get some down time soon! :)

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

Looks so good! I love the wine bottle special for someone to do! You are a lucky girl to have such great friends.

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

Cute pond scum kid also!

Leah said...

EAT -- yep, BC recipes are always great. I've never had one that's bombed with the DamFam!

Aggie -- down time is here. Serious, lazy, boring, down time. Thank goodness! I'm lovin' that.

Stac' -- yep, I'm lucky. I could never move away from this awesome neighborhood!! I'll tell O' that you thought she was a cute pond scum slinger. ;-)

Kirsten said...

I have been wanting to make that panzanella salad for some time. Everytime I flip through that cookbook I'm drawn to that page. Yours looks great! I might just have to make it now.