As I mentioned yesterday, we found that Cup Cafe has one of the best desserts on the planet: Peanut Butter Cheesecake. For about a year we had wanted to figure out how to make it, but just didn’t know how the cafe staff could make it as light and creamy as it is.
We’re planning our next scratched dinner and it’ll be a good one. Right now, we’re thinking that Sunday’s dinner will look something like this:
- Homemade bread — probably an artisan boule encrusted with pepitas
- Salad with pears, walnuts, and Gorgonzola cheese
- Frittata/Egg Tortilla with squash, carrots, and mushrooms
- Peanut butter cheesecake
Since we’ll be baking bread on Sunday morning (we bake once a week; eventually we’ll put the bread instructions up, but they’re rather long) and plan on a more elaborate dessert, we decided to go with a lighter, easier main. A frittata fits the bill. Easy to put together with whatever you have on hand, they are a perfect for meals where another dish will take center stage. In this case, it’ll be the peanut butter cheese cake, front and center.
We have wanted to make a peanut butter cheesecake ever since we had a slice at Cup Cafe. Super rich from the peanut butter/cream cheese mousse topped with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, yet light enough that you don’t feel overly full afterwards, it is a nearly perfect dessert. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a recipe until now, thanks to Dorie Greenspan. She has some of the best-looking deserts around, and her cookbooks are written in a style that makes you think, “I could make that!” We highly recommend that you check out a copy of any her books from your local library, or check out her website.
So make sure you watch over the next week, and together we’ll be scratchin’ up another great Sunday dinner
Q: How did it turn out? A: It was a good choice for dinner. We knew we’d be baking that day (3 loaves of bread and homemade granola) so we went with something simple and light. Since we were making bread anyway, that would be included, and the great thing about making a frittata is you can use pretty much anything you have available and it takes all of 30 minutes to put together. Then all we needed was a salad, so we thought we’d go with something that sounded upscale.
Q: Anything you’d do differently? A: For the two of us, we’d probably cut the peanut butter cheesecake recipe in half. Also, on the frittata we used Havarti cheese with dill (we had it on hand); it would have been better with a sharp cheddar.
Q: Timeline? A: We knew the cheesecake would take a while so we started that Saturday evening and applied the ganache Sunday morning. With the bread, we bake once a week anyway, and for that we make the dough one day, and bake the next. We started the salad and frittata about 45 minutes before dinner time.
These seem quite fancy, yet they are one of the fastest and simplest desserts. And even with a little ice cream and chocolate sauce, they are still light enough that you can eat several without feeling overwhelmed. Even though they are fast, popovers can be a bit finicky; we’ll have a few tips as we go along, but the first couple of times you make them, they might not pop.
Vinaigrette dressings are really simple to put together. Just remember this: 1 part vinegar, 2 parts oil; you can’t go wrong. Continue reading “Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing”
Based on a recipe I found in Rustic Italian Food by Marc Verti and David Joachim. The original called for far more oil and way too much salt; I backed off on these ingredients and added fresh basil to make what I think is a much nicer-tasting sauce. Continue reading “Hand-crushed Marinara Sauce”
Does home-made pasta seem difficult? We thought so too, but once we tried it we found out that, not only is it really easy, but it makes your pasta-based dinners even better. Now we make fresh pasta about once a week.
UPDATE (5/21/2017): We’ve learned a lot about making pasta over the years, including the exact ratio of flour to liquid: 5 parts flour (by weight) to 3 parts liquid (also by weight), plus a pinch of salt. So to make 8 ounces of perfect pasta dough you need 5 ounces flour (pretty much any kind) and 3 ounces of liquid (pretty much any kind). Now you might find some people who claim the ratio is 3 parts flour to 2 parts liquid. This ratio will result in a dough that is too soft and a bit sticky. Do not be fooled, we make pasta dough weekly and have tried many ratios before settling on the 5 to 3 ratio.
I bet that you know an Italian or two. I do. And if they’re like the Italians I know, they’re warm and friendly, but they are particular about their food. After all, the Italians have a long history of great food, so who can blame them for wanting food that stands out from the rest.
So over the next couple of days, we’ll put together a great meal that any Italian would be happy with. A meal that you’ll be happy with, too. Because it’ll come together so easy, and yet, you and I, will have scratched almost every part of the meal.
Our menu will probably look like this:
Caesar saladSalad with Balsamic vinaigrette
- Homemade linguine with hand-crushed tomato basil sauce
- Homemade dinner rolls
- Ice cream filled popovers with chocolate sauce
Not too elaborate, but certainly impressive.
Q: So how did it turn out? A: Great! We had to quick switch to a Balsamic-based dressing at the last minute when we realized that we had only one egg left in the house. The other choice would have been to give up on the popovers.
Q: What was the timeline like to get this all together for dinner? A: We put together the pasta dough around 8:30am, so it could rest in the fridge, brought it out around noon, and rolled and cut it around 2pm. Around 4:30pm, we crushed up the tomato sauce, took the dinner rolls out of the freezer (had them from this week’s baking). Around 5:30 it was time to wash the lettuce, make the vinaigrette, and plate the salad. 5:45 water went on for boiling the pasta, and the sauce went in the microwave. Just a little after 6, drained and plated the pasta and we sat down to dinner. Around 7:45pm started the popovers, just in time for dessert at 8:30pm. I know it sounds like we were busy all day, but not so! Most steps only took a few minutes and the timing was all adjusted to fit our schedule.
Q: Anything you’d do different next time? No, not really. It made a really good meal.