It’s recipe time! When I was growing up, my mother had Francis Moore Lappe’s book Diet for a Small Planet. It’s a book about moving towards a diet that’s both nutritious and sustainable for the whole planet. We learned a lot about how to combine vegetarian foods to get complete proteins. One of my favorite recipes in that book was/is Ricotta Cheesecake. My mother made a lot of nutritious desserts, but for me, cheesecake was the ultimate. It’s so delicious, smooth and creamy and lemony. And hey, if this is what it takes to save the planet, then so be it!
And I’m keeping up the tradition in my own family, although my kids are still fairly suspicious of the oxymoron “cheese cake”. Chocolate cake is much more natural collocation. I’ve made cheesecake many times for my Moroccan friends, and it’s been very well-received indeed. I’d like to get at least some credit for this important cross-cultural contribution. In fact, this recipe is mostly for those living in Morocco, as you’ll see from the ingredient list.
The ingredients. Now if you live in Morocco, you’ll know exactly what each of these things are. My secret about cheesecake is that I never make it the same way twice. I throw in a combination of whatever I have in hand. These ingredients are enough to make a large sized cake, enough for 24 people. I made it recently for a potluck at work, and managed to photograph all the stages of the making. I didn’t even get that much cheesecake filling on my camera.
Ingredients for Cheesecake:
4 packets Sable biscuits
100g of butter
24 kiri (about 12 ounces of cream cheese)
1 can Nestle sweetened condensed milk
4 perly yogurts
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Strawberries/a little sugar
Here’s the thing about the ingredients, you can make infinite substitutions. There’s no perfect recipe. If you don’t have Nestle for example, just use about a cup of sugar. If Kiri is too fattening, you can use ricotta or white cheese (jben). Perly is also not necessary, you can use any plain yogurt. I chose a lemon flavor here, but you can put in vanilla instead. The eggs can also be increased, I used 4 here, but I think the original recipe has more than that. So there is a lot of choice in the matter of ingredients. As they say in Morocco, 3aynek meezanek (measure with your eyes). And of course taste it and adjust the flavor to your liking.
1-Pulse the biscuits in a food processor:
2-Melt the butter and add it to the biscuits. Mix again:
3-Pour the crumbs into a glass pan and pat them down with something flat. Bake for 10 minutes:
4-While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
Pour ALL the ingredients into the food processor: kiri, perly, eggs, lemon juice and zest, and the can of nestle. You can taste it now to see if it’s sweet or lemony enough. In this recipe I actually added another half a can of nestle. The filling will be very liquid:
5-Remove the crust from the oven after 10 minutes. Don’t burn it! Pour the filling in. It should look like this:
6-Bake on VERY low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour. It should feel firm and set.
Prepare the strawberry garnish: slice the strawberries, add some sugar, and set them in the fridge to chill and become syrupy.
7-Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool.
Once it’s cool, it needs to be chilled in the fridge. It’s best to make it about 4 hours in advance or even overnight. The longer it sits before eating, the better it tastes. (Don’t do what I did and serve it lukewarm. That’s not cool, literally).
Enjoy it if you manage to get a slice. It goes fast!