Apologies for my absence, friends, but I have been looking at things after getting LASIK, and not much else, simultaneously awe-struck and wonder-filled. The LASIK procedure was uncomfortable, spent in a blind panic trying to control my breathing and therefore my reaction because there was a laser pointing at my eye. The aftermath was painful, as the numbing drops wore off and I wore dark goggles and tried to sleep. The rest of the day was spent watching a blurry television and drinking tea and complaining about the taste of antibiotic eye drops because, as it turns out, they drip into your sinuses through your tear ducts. And then I went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and looked out the window and could see every single leaf on the nearest tree with such clarity and intensity that it felt as though I had never actually SEEN it before.
And I started crying. Big sobs of relief and reverence. The rest of the day, I spent looking at things. Colours! Leaves! Birds in the sky! The pores on peoples’ faces! Individual hairs! Green grass! Purple flowers! The night sky! It felt as though not only my eyes had been opened but all of my senses in turn. Food had never tasted so good, smells had never been that smelly before, and at this middle of all this sensory overload was me, just walking, staring, smelling, feeling.
During this week, with my new (better than 20/20!) eyes, I discovered, at the back of a dark cupboard, a little jar of roasted acorn flour. I remember putting it there- much like one stashes a spare $20 under a pair of underwear just in case, and then forgets about it, so that, upon finding it six months later it’s become free money. Well this was free acorn flour. At a time of year that I’m usually bereft of acorn flour. Joy, my friends, doesn’t even describe the emotional response to finding such things.
I’ve been so in love with the mountains lately- that smell of pine tree and sweetness. High desert, where mesquite turns to oak, and then to pine belt. I’ve been spending as much time as possible up there lately, to gather mountain roses, and to enjoy the crisp air, the smells, the staggering beauty. I pulled out the last of my mesquite pods from last year, and the jeffrey pine honey I made a few weeks ago, thinking to combine them all to make something that spoke of Southwestern mountains. The combination of acorn and mesquite flour is both sweet and wild-tasting. Different enough that you think ‘what IS that?’ but not so different that you want to stop eating it. Quite the opposite, in fact.
So I made cheesecake, using the flours as a crust, and the honey to sweeten the cheese mixture. Using a combination of Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Baking, From My Home To Yours, and Kiva’s recipe from the Wild Things acorn roundup last year, and a few modifications of my own.
A note on ingredients: Come autumn, it should be pretty easy to get hold of acorns. I’ll remind you; there will be talk of them for weeks. If not, then try a Korean market- you can usually get acorn flour there, and if not, try it with chestnut flour, which you can definitely get there. Mesquite flour can be found at health food stores, though, if you’re in the Southwest, I really recommend harvesting your own. If you don't have access to Jeffrey pines (or ponderosa) then try a local pine species, or fir, or even Douglas fir...
Acorn, pine and mesquite cheesecake.
3/4 c acorn flour
1/2 cup mesquite flour
1 cup oat flour
11tb butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
grate of nutmeg
2 packs cream cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup pine infused honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 tb spiced rum
First, make the crust- combine the flours, salt and nutmeg in a bowl, and stir in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of a pan (I used a cast iron pan, but you can use a springform pan- the crust holds together really well), and bake for 15 minutes at 325.
While that’s in the oven, beat the cream cheese and sour cream until really light and smooth- about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat until combined, then the honey, and the rum.
When smooth, pour into the crust, and bake, still at 325 for 45 minutes to an hour. Start checking it after 45- it should still be slightly jiggly in the centre, and nicely bronzed on top.