As a long-time freelance food writer, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City ‘burbs.
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Local strawberries are just about ready in the Hudson Valley, so it’s time to survey my jam collection and serve up last year’s treasures before making this year’s batch. I found several half-jars of red jam to make use of: cherry, strawberry and a little raspberry, too. Those and a sleeve of saltines in the cupboard (who knows how they got there) inspired a simple swirled cheesecake.
While they might be suitable for teatime or coffee hour, heavier traditional cheesecakes just seem impossible to enjoy after a full meal. To fix that, I tinkered with a very basic recipe by using lighter dairy and less sugar. Even with added sugar, the saltines made a pleasantly less-sweet crust than the usual graham crackers. Still, the cheesecake is very rich, so serve small pieces.
If you have a food processor, use it to quickly turns the crackers into crumbs and then smooth the batter. With this kitchen appliance at your disposal, you’ll be able to fool your dinner guests with the amount of time you spent preparing their dessert.
For the swirl, use any jelly or preserves you have. Thin out with a matching liqueur or some citrus juice so it’s easier to incorporate into the cream-cheese batter. I used a berry liqueur that I had also made last season with the jam and lemon juice with some remaining pumpkin butter for second cheesecake. If you have extra time, you can even soak, cook and purée some dried fruit for the swirl.
Yield: 12 servings
- 30 unsalted saltines, finely crushed
- 3 T. sugar
- 5 T. butter, melted
- 2 8-ounce packages light cream cheese
- 1/2 cup plain, no-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- a dash of salt
- 3/4 cup jam
- 1 T. lemon juice, orange juice or fruit liqueur
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix saltines and sugar. Add melted butter, fluffing mixture with fork. Press mixture into 9-by-9-inch baking dish, inching the crumbs up sides. Freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for longer. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, and cool.
Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.
Beat cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, vanilla and sugar in mixer or food processor until smooth.
Thin jam with juice or liqueur so it’s thick but more fluid.
Pour cheese mix into baked, cooled crust. Drop small spoonfuls of the thinned jam across batter. Using thin knife or skewer, carefully swirl jam through batter.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes until just firm. Cool briefly and then refrigerate.