Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dad's Day Dinner

6/11/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

This Sunday is Father’s Day and many dads will be requesting their favorite dishes to be served. On Mother’s Day the family often goes out to eat but on Father’s Day we stay home. Who better to cook the meal than the one who knows dad best?

My husband was a picky eater when we married 49 years ago. In fact, our first fight was about food. One night he came home from work and wolfed down a delicious beef, cheese, noodle casserole that I had prepared. “Wow,” he said, that was great. What’s in it?”

I distinctly remember gulping and planning my plot of escape. This casserole was chock full of cottage cheese, cream cheese and sour cream. Except for American cheese, his family adamantly did not like any other cheese products! Sure enough, he was pretty angry that I had tricked him into eating foods that he didn’t like.

Well, he got over it and wily female that I am, I have gastronomically surprised him more than once in our years together. Today, the noodle, meat and cheese recipe is an often requested family favorite. I became very successful at introducing new foods into his diet but sometimes I went too far.

Liver and onions was one of my huge failures. My family loved liver and onions with bacon. And I was sure that if he just tried it that he would love it too. Wrong! After all these years if I eat liver, I eat it alone or with our daughter. He won’t touch it.

Chuck’s Father’s Day dessert request is always the same: cheesecake. Honestly, the man never has met a cheesecake that he didn’t crave a bite of. I, on the other hand, am not particularly fond of it. Except for an Italian cheesecake with a ricotta filling by our Italian friend Ralph Anderson, I’d probably never eat one at all.

Chuck helped Ralph set up ”Marianne’s,” Ralph’s first restaurant in Ventura, CA. He would come home and regale me with tales and secrets of homemade Italian sausage or potato gnocchi (a kind of potato pasta dumpling). But he was especially enamored of the vanilla bean scented ricotta cheesecake and ricotta-filled cannolis.

This year’s Father’s Day dinner will feature a similar Italian Cheesecake and another old favorite, a beef brisket that I’ve been making for nearly 40 years. The brisket recipe is fabulous and oh, so easy. The leftovers (if there are any) make great sandwiches and the barbecue sauce is equally good on other meats.

Barbecue Beef Brisket

6-pound beef brisket
3 tablespoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion salt
1 teaspoon celery salt
¼-cup Worcestershire sauce
Black pepper to taste

Place brisket in a large glass bowl or baking pan. Sprinkle brisket with liquid smoke, garlic powder, onion and celery salt. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil; place in refrigerator and allow to stand overnight.

The next day sprinkle meat with Worcestershire sauce and pepper; place in baking pan or slow cooker. Cover with foil (or lid) and bake 5 hours at 275-degrees F. Uncover and bake 1-hour longer with barbecue sauce (recipe follows).

Brisket Barbecue Sauce

1 cup catsup or tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1 onion, finely minced
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup margarine

Combine ingredients in saucepan and simmer 15 minutes.

Italian-style Ricotta Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup finely ground almonds
½ cup melted butter
½ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar

Ricotta Filling

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons flour
2 8-ounce packages Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese) softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 (15-ounce) container low fat or whole milk ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup melted and cooled butter
2 cups sour cream (not low fat)

To assemble crust:
Heat oven to 350-degrees F.
Mix together all ingredients in bowl. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9X2-inch springform pan. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Prick with fork if it bubbles up. Cool.

To assemble filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325-degrees F.
Pour hot water about 1-inch deep in a pan larger than the springform baking pan and place in oven.

Using an electric mixer beat the softened cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Beat in the ricotta cheese until smooth. Then, beat in eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the lemon juice; lemon zest; inside scrapings of vanilla bean; vanilla extract; melted and cooled butter; and sour cream. Finally, combine the cornstarch and flour; lightly mix them with other ingredients.

Pour batter into pre-baked crust. Place the springform pan in the larger pan in the oven. Bake the cheesecake 1 hour or until barely set in the center. Turn off the oven, leaving the cheesecake inside for 1 hour longer. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Refrigerate before removing from pan. Delicious topped with fresh berries, homemade strawberry freezer jam or canned cherry pie filling.
Serves 12.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare. Contact her at 942-1317 or email

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