We finally had our much-anticipated cheese tasting in culinary school this week and I have to confess that, for once in my life, I was completely cheesed out. We tasted about 20 cheeses that ran the gamut from sweet, creamy and spreadable to hard and tangy with notes of grass and barnyard. As expected, most folks enjoyed the mild flavors of Brie, St. Andre and Manchego over those that literally smelled and tasted like a sheep or cow hangout, but I don’t mind the grassy flavors too much.
Anyhow, the whole point of this little cheese rant is that when I came home after class that night—still vowing to forgo cheese consumption for at least another 24 hours—and looked in my fridge for something to munch on, the first thing I spotted was the Sweet Basil Cheesecake Laura and I had made a few days earlier. After that ungodly cheese bender I’d just been on, I actually had to remind myself that I couldn’t possibly eat any more cheese that night. And that, my friends, is how good this cheesecake is. It’ll make you want to eat MORE cheese after you’ve just eaten more than a single person should ever consume in one sitting.
I did manage to restrain myself and skip out on the cheesecake; homemade Oreos were calling my name. But this savory cheesecake recipe will be one I keep in my party repertoire. Instead of purchasing several cheeses for a cheese plate, just make one big savory cheesecake and serve with crackers. This cheesecake recipe doubles or quadruples beautifully if you’re having a large get-together and need to serve more than 4. And believe me, guests won’t object to taking some of the leftovers home with them. Soon they’ll be staring into their fridges, wondering if they’ve already had their share of cheese for the day.
Sweet Basil Cheesecake
This savory cheesecake recipe is adapted from Giada DeLaurentis. You can quadruple it to make a full-size cheesecake. I didn’t brush the cheesecake with olive oil as suggested, but feel free to try it out. Serves 4. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
Butter, for greasing the pan
½ cup (4 ounces) ricotta cheese, at room temperature
½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup (3 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
1 Tbs. sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
Pinch fine sea salt
½ cup packed chopped fresh basil
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Serving suggestion: assorted crackers
Special equipment: 4½ -inch diameter springform pan, about 2½-inches tall
Prepare pan. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 4 1/2-inch diameter springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with a piece of heavy-duty foil.
Make cheesecake batter. Place the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and goat cheese in a food processor. Pulse until mixed. Add the sugar, egg, egg yolk, and salt and blend until smooth. Add the basil and pulse until incorporated. Pour the cheese mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake and cool. Place the pan in an 8-inch by 8-inch square baking dish. Pour enough hot water in the baking dish to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken (the cheesecake will become firm when chilled), about 50 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the springform pan from the baking dish and remove the foil.
Remove from pan and serve. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature before serving, about 30 minutes. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the cheesecake with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with assorted crackers.