Sunday, July 5, 2015

Food & Friends...Life Is Good

The sun was low as Thomas, Sindhu, Nick, Gina, Stone and I gathered at Vlad's for a summer dinner party.  As we arrived Vlad greeted each with a beverage and keep our glasses filled, tasting 3-4 different wines throughout the night .  I kind of lost count.  The conversation was lively as we talked about all that is in the news lately to an upcoming marriage of one of the couples' son.  
Vlad had dinner prepared, and the table set.  Is there anything this man doesn't do?  He's a scientist, he cooks, he entertains.  He's perfect, except he reads books that nobody wants to read.  I ask him where he found this soup recipe.   He said he invented it.  Hmmm, well I guess I should not be surprised, he's a scientist.   He loves peas and mint, all I can say it was so yummy, I wanted seconds.  I resisted only because the main course was coming as was dessert.  There was one serving left, guess who took it home?  That's right, all mine.

Vlad's Minty Pea Soup
Serves: 8
Soup Ingredients:
3 pounds frozen english peas
10 Stalks fresh mint
salt and white pepper to taste
approximately 1/2 cup heavy cream
Soup Instructions:
1.  Boil peas just unit tender.
2.  Drain put in blender.
3.  Take the mint leaves from the stalks and place in blender.
4.  Blend, leaving it slightly chunky.
5.  Add cream, blend.
6.  Add salt and white pepper to taste.
7.  Refrigerate.
8.  Serve cold. 

Vlad knows how much I love to bake.  He was kind enough to let me bring dessert.  In fact more often than not, I can't make up my mind, there are so many things I want to prepare that I end up taking two sweet treats.  Vlad kindly told me one would be sufficient.  He was right, this cheesecake is so rich it was plenty, plus some.  With its rich creamy filling, topped with caramel sauce, toffee, and whipping cream, it's not diet friendly. 

 Toffee Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce
Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Crust Instructions:
1.  Combine crust ingredients.  
2.  Press over bottom and up sides of a 9" springform pan that has been sprayed with baking spray.
3. Chill in refrigerator.

Filling Ingredients:
4 (8-ounces) packages full fat Philadelphia cream cheese, (room temperature).
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, (room temperature)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven 350".
Filling Instructions:
1.  Using mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  
2.  Add sugar and beat until smooth.
3.  Beat in eggs one at a time.
4.  Mix in vanilla and lemon juice.
5.  Pour into crust.
6.  Using heavy duty foil wrap,  around pan and set onto a jelly roll pan.  
7.  Place pan in oven with rack on the fourth row.
8.  For the water bath, pour water up to 1" in pan after you have place it in the oven.  Do not have water above the foil or it will seep into pan .
9.  Bake for approximately  45 minutes or until filling temperature reaches 160'-165'.
10.  Turn oven off, leave cheesecake in oven and leave to oven door open for 30 minutes.
11.  Take out and let cool to room temperature.

Caramel Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup whipping cream 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, (room temperature) cut into small pieces.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel Sauce Directions:
1.  Heat Sugar and water over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.  
2.  Increase heat and boil without stirring until mixture is a rich carmel color or until it reaches 350'.  Occasionally swirling and washing down sides of pan with brush dipped into cold water.  
3.  Reduce heat to very low, and add cream.  Mixture will bubble up.  Stir until smooth.
4.  Mix in butter.
5.  Mix in vanilla.  Let cool slightly.
6.  Pour 2/3 cup caramel sauce into center of cheesecake.
7.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.  Best made the day ahead.
8.  Store left over caramel sauce in refrigerator, covered.  

Whipping Cream Ingredients:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix (dry)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (or to taste)
Whipping Cream Directions:
1.  Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, preferably one that has been chilled.
2.  Mix on low speed until ingredients are combined.
3.  Mix on high speed until soft peaks form, scraping sides of bowl often.
4.  Pipe around edge of cheesecake with whipping cream.
5.  Arrange toffee pieces around top of cake.

It was midnight as we departed, saying our goodbye's, making our way home.  I love evenings like this, talking, laughing, eating.  Like they say, "life is good."