a slice of: grapefruit goat cheesecake

Last week, we entered into the first period of ordinary time--the season that begins the day after we celebrate Christ's baptism and continues until the day before Ash Wednesday. During this season, we meditate on Christ's ministry, His time walking on earth.

I used to assume that ordinary time just meant the season that is not special or meaningful, in contrast to the penitential or feasting seasons. But the name actually comes from the fact that the weeks of ordinary time are numbered using ordinal numbers. The meditations of ordinary time are actually deeply important, reflecting on Christ's life and the value of an embodied God walking with us. The two seasons of ordinary time (the second beginning after Pentecost and continuing until Advent) are the longest of the liturgical calendar, indicating the importance of reflecting our lives after Jesus' own behavior while walking here on earth. 

January has always been my least favorite month. The short, cold days, the mountains of snow--by mid-month I am so ready for winter to be over. After Christmas I'm ready for spring, for a new sign of hope, of life, of warmth. I think similarly when our churches focus primarily on Christ's birth, resurrection, and proclaimed coming--overlooking the actions of his ministry--it is easy to get stuck in the dark, cold of winter, forgetting that we are to be that sign of hope, Christ walking in the world today. Defending those on the margins, caring for the oppressed and the marginalized, setting tables for the least of these.

This January, I'm attempting to find the hope hidden within the bleakness of winter. For right now, when justice feels so far away, it starts in the kitchen. Citrus is the most surprising of winter produce, a bright respite from the cold. A taste of hope in darkness.

This recipe was inspired by my friend Hannah, who loves cheesecake but can't eat any dairy other than goat cheese. I obviously love goat cheese (I believe I've used it in about half of the recipes I've posted now?), so the idea of creating a cheesecake she could eat was absolutely a no brainer. Pomegranate and grapefruit bring a welcome tartness alongside the earthy tones of the cheese. If you've never cooked with pomegranate molasses, invest in a high quality bottle. You will want to put it in everything--cocktails, salad, soup, and more. My favorite type is Mymoune, though it can be difficult to find apart from a few specialty food stores. A more widely available brand is Al Wadi (I'm not a fan of the bitter Cortas brand, which is also widely sold here in the States).

grapefruit goat cheesecake

1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
a pinch of sea salt

6 eggs, separated
11 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon grapefruit zest
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, and grapefruit slices, optional

1. To toast the walnuts, place them in a dry sauce pan and heat over a low flame, turning constantly until you just begin to smell a nutty aroma. Pour them into a food processor with the sugar, melted butter, and sea salt, and pulse until the nuts are ground into small pieces.
2. Press the mixture into the base of a springform pan or onto a sheet pan fitted with a silicone mat and baking ring. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
3. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Any trace of fat (egg yolks, a little bit of butter or oil gracing the side of the bowl) can prevent the whites from whipping, so be sure to use a very clean bowl. Set aside for later use.
4. Cream together the goat cheese, sugar, honey, grapefruit zest and juice, and salt. Add in the egg yolks one at a time, incorporating fully between each addition. Add the flour and incorporate gently.
5. Fold in the whipped egg whites until the mixture is smooth. Pour into the pan over the walnut crust and bake for 35 minutes, until the center is just slightly jiggly.
6. Let cool for ten minutes at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for half an hour. Remove the baking ring or the outer edge of the springform pan.

I like to garnish mine with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds--the tart syrup complements the goat cheese and grapefruit so perfectly and the crunch of the seeds adds a great bit of texture. But the cheesecake is also perfectly delicious on its own. (A side of grapefruit mimosa also pairs wonderfully. Cheers to my roommate Heather for discovering this!)

a note on going gluten-free: The flour in this recipe is optional. I tried baking a miniature version without the flour in hopes of the recipe being entirely gluten free, but the texture was not perfect. It will work without any flour at all, but I would recommend substituting a gluten-free blend.

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stubborn hope