Cheesecake is not only for dessert

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

One thing is for sure, these recipes prove that cheesecake is not just for dessert anymore. I know a few people who are really into making cheesecake right now, so I decided to do this column all on savory cheesecakes to ring in the New Year. It would be quite nice to have several different kinds of appetizer cheesecakes on a New Year's Eve party buffet. I have made a couple of different seafood and crab cheesecakes in the past and they are always a big hit. Maybe you would like to give it a try this year as well. Just remember to refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Taco Cheesecake

This appetizer cheesecake is very good and the presentation is impressive. When cutting or seeding hot peppers, use rubber or plastic gloves to protect your hands and avoid touching your face.

3 teaspoons cornmeal

3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 envelope taco seasoning

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup salsa

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack pepper cheese (4-oz.)

1 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chilies, drained

1/2 cup chopped ripe black olives

Topping:

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1/4 cup sliced scallions

1/4 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

1 jalapeño peppers, sliced

Sprinkle bottom of greased 9-inch springform pan with cornmeal; set aside. In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add the taco seasoning, sour cream and salsa.

Stir in the eggs, pepper jack cheese and chilies. Fold in olives. Pour over cornmeal.

Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool for 1 hour. The top of the cheesecake may crack. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Spread sour cream over top and sides of cheesecake.

Arrange olives, onions, tomatoes and jalapeño slices on top in a circular motion.

You can do tomatoes on the outer edge, then green onion, jalapeño, then scatter black olives randomly, within the circle. Serve with assorted crackers.

Savory Chicken Cheesecake with Cranberry-Orange relish

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

8 ounces French onion dip

1 tablespoon flour

12 teaspoons dried dill weed

3 eggs

1 cup chicken, cooked and minced

12 ounce cranberry orange relish, drained

2 tablespoons pecans, chopped and toasted

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch springform pan. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in onion dip, flour and dill weed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Fold in chicken; spread in pan. Bake about 1 1/4 hours or until edge is golden brown and center is firm. Cool 15 minutes. Run metal spatula along side of cheesecake to loosen. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove side of pan. Spoon relish onto top of cheesecake. Sprinkle with pecans. Cut into thin wedges and serve with crackers or veggies for dipping.

Savory Crab Cheesecake

This appetizer spread is quite elegant and can be made ahead so there is no last minute rush in preparation.

1 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers, about 25 crackers

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 packages, 8 ounces each cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sour cream, divided

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons grated onion

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning, like Old Bay

2 drops hot pepper sauce

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup crabmeat, drained, flaked and cartilage removed

Additional seafood seasoning, optional

In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom of the greased 9-inch springform pan. Place pan on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack. Reduce heat to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sour cream until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low just until combined. Add onion, lemon juice, seafood seasoning, hot pepper sauce and pepper; beat just until blended. Fold in crab. Pour over crust. Return pan to baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen. Cool 1 hour longer. Spread remaining sour cream over top. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove sides of pan. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with seafood seasoning if desired. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 20 to 24 appetizer servings.

Appetizer Cheesecake

6 bacon strips, diced

1 large onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 carton, 15 ounces ricotta cheese

1/2 cup half-and-half cream

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup sliced scallions

Assorted crackers and fresh fruit

In a skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels. In the drippings, saute onion and garlic until tender; remove with a slotted spoon. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, cream, flour, salt and cayenne; beat until smooth. Add eggs, beat on low speed just until combined. Set aside 3 tablespoons bacon for garnish. Stir in scallions, sauteed onion and remaining bacon into egg mixture. Pour into greased 8-inch springform pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved bacon. Serve warm with crackers and fruit. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 16 to 20 servings.

Have a wonderful week, a happy and safe New Year and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at news@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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