Black Cherry and Cheese Pie

Roger had his third immunotherapy vaccine last week and, thankfully, he has experienced no ill effects, which is the good news. Now for the bad news. Per the study protocol, chemo restarts again today and this round will be double the previous dosage. It’s not going to be pleasant; therefore, this week we will eat. And eat. And when we’re finished eating, we will eat again. Even gluten.

We hosted a dinner at our home on Monday night, and I made a cheese pie for dessert in anticipation of the scheduled appearance of Roger’s loss of appetite. The pie is really simple to make and quite tasty. Here’s what you’ll need-

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

A springform pan

A jar of Toschi Amarena sour black cherries (you can find them at Bristol Farms)

4 oz. graham crackers

1 oz. unsalted butter, melted

1 oz. almonds (be sure to tell your guests there are nuts in there!)

8 oz. room temperature cream cheese

1 ½ cups sour cream

½ cup sugar

½ tbsp. sifted cornstarch

2 eggs

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. vanilla


Process the almonds and graham crackers, until fine, in your food processor. Add the melted butter and mix.


Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10-15 minutes.


Whisk the cream cheese with an electric whisk. Add the sugar. Beat until smooth. Add the cornstarch and mix. Add lemon juice and vanilla and mix again. Add the sour cream and mix again.


Pour the batter into the pan and place it in the oven. Bake until set, which should be approximately 45 minutes (depends on your oven). Let cool completely. Release the hinge from your springform pan and carefully remove the ring.


I topped the cheese pie with some of the Toschi black cherries and spooned some black cherry sauce over the top. The amount you wish to use is up to you.

Eat well!


“Man never made anything as resilient as the human spirit.”

-Bernard Williamns






Roger and I returned home last weekend from a glorious trip to Napa. It was a gift given to my hubby over a year ago and I was the blessed beneficiary of his hard work. We’d been delaying the trip until the kids were off to college so we could fully relax and boy, did we relax: an exceptional dinner at The French Laundry, a 20-mile bike ride through vineyards (in 96-degree heat!), countless great meals, and many fabulous tasting room experiences.


In addition to all of the fun we had, we also saw firsthand the unfortunate aftereffects of the recent earthquake. Many buildings were damaged, but the one pictured above was the most severe. That being said, everyone we encountered was in good spirits and they were very thankful it wasn’t much worse. Roger and I, of course, took advantage of the many bottles left unharmed in the tremor.

Sinskey Vineyards -

Sinskey Vineyards –

One of our favorite winery/tasting rooms is owned and operated by our friend, Bob Sinskey, along with his son, Rob, who’s now in charge of the day-to-day operations. Rob’s wife, Maria Helm Sinskey, manages all of their culinary endeavors. Maria was named Food and Wine’s Best New Chef in 2006 and is a well-respected cookbook author. This is truly a family owned and operated winery.



Sinskey wine is certified organic and all of their grapes are grown, crushed, fermented, and bottled on property. They use 100% French oak barrels with light to medium toast, and they practice “whole farm” cultivation based upon Rudolph Steiner’s 1928 “Agriculture” lecture.

The Vineyard Garden provides for the kitchen.

The Vineyard Garden provides for the kitchen.



There’s a fabulous kitchen (complete with a wood-fired oven) attached to the tasting room and they serve amazing nibbles to be enjoyed with your wine.


We toured the caves tunneled into the hillside and poked around the wine “library” that contains at least one bottle of every wine produced on property for decades.


The bottles in the image above date back to the earliest days of the winery and as you can see, the bottles are covered with dust and mold. Sneezing and coughing began about 15 minutes after entering the cave so we had to make a quick exit.


We were served some delicious tidbits to be enjoyed with our wine pairings. The salami you see on the plate is a duck salami, made in-house, and it was superb. My other favorite morsel was the gougere (the little round pastry puff pictured in the top right corner) along with their Pinot Noir, Los Carneros, Napa Valley 2011. It was a perfect pairing! A match made in heaven.

Here’s Maria’s recipe for Gougere (yields 40)

1 ½ cups water

6 ounces unsalted butter

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

6 large eggs

2 cups grated gruyere or other firm cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1 tsp. chopped rosemary

2 tsp. chopped thyme

Bring water, butter, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour.

Return the pan to medium high heat and stir until the batter pulls away from the side of the pan. Scrape into the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on and allow the paddle to cool the dough slightly for about a minute.

On a low speed, add the eggs one by one. After each egg is added, increase the speed to medium and beat until incorporated. Beat well after all eggs have been added.

Add the grated cheese and the herbs. Beat well until incorporated.

On a parchment-lined sheet pan, using a pastry bag, pipe the batter into half-dollar sized rounds. The batter may also be scooped into mounds with a tablespoon. Freeze.

To bake, preheat oven to 425-degrees. Egg wash the puffs straight from freezer. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan. Bake for another 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400-degrees and bake until puffed and golden, 5-10 minutes. Serve warm.

If you’re going to be in the Napa area, be sure and call 707-944-9090 to reserve their “Perfect Circle Tour.” You’ll have an immersive farm to table culinary tour with wine tastings.

Eat well, 


“Beer is made by men, wine by God.” – Martin Luther



DSCF6328-1Last weekend Roger and I attended a gathering of a newly formed and, dare I say, critical UCI committee: The “Council of Clinical Chefs.” This group of home chefs (also Chairs of their respective departments) wields scalpels and stethoscopes Monday through Friday and whisks on the weekends. They’re a food loving fun group of people who unite to blow off steam while slicing and dicing food rather than their usual subjects. They kindly let me jump on board with their group (in spite of my lack of surgical training) and they presented me with my very own apron emblazoned with their very sharp logo.


Our hosts, Dr. Bill Armstrong and his lovely wife Susan, were kind enough to hold the event at their beautiful home, which sports a wood-fired oven (Bill constructed it himself). Pizza was the selected food for the night and four of us were called upon to create a pizza of our choosing and bring a wine pairing we thought appropriate for our pies. I recently cured another five-pound pork belly (please see my blog for instructions) so I’m rather flush with pancetta right now. I went with a fig, pancetta, and fresh ricotta pizza with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. Because we would be feeding a crowd, I had to bring enough ingredients for five pizzas and purchase four bottles of wine. Luckily, I was able to find some great Black Mission Figs at a nearby Bristol Farms market. They come into season in June and will soon be in abundance at your local Farmers Market.

I love ricotta. There are so many tasty ways you can serve this spreadable/stuffable delight. Because it has a quiet flavor profile, it’s an extremely versatile ingredient. Whatever it’s lacking for in taste is clearly made up for in its creamy texture. Because fresh ricotta cheese just can’t be beat, I made my own for the party. Here’s a no-sweat ricotta recipe. I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but I had written the recipe down so long ago (it’s that simple!) that I couldn’t recall its origin.

Here’s what you’ll need (makes about 2 cups):

  • A food thermometer that can reach 170-degrees
  • Cheesecloth (I prefer unbleached)
  • A stockpot that’s large enough to hold 10 cups of milk product
  • A strainer (I have one with arms that extend to fit over the sink)
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 quarts of whole milk

Unfurl your cheesecloth into a strainer and place the strainer over the sink.



Pour the 2 quarts of whole milk into your stockpot. Add the buttermilk. Slowly bring up the temperature until it reaches 170 degrees, which takes patience. As the temperature increases, you will begin to see puffy little clouds forming: curds and they will be floating in a yellowish water left behind: whey. Congratulate yourself, you have just separated curds from whey and made cheese!


Once you hit 170, and your curds have blossomed, remove the pan from the heat and carefully strain your stockpot over the lined strainer. The pan will be very heavy so be careful not to splatter the hot stuff all over yourself. Let it drain until you have a creamy, not soupy, consistency. Refrigerate until you’re ready to use.


The fig pizza was a hit and the pairing I chose: a 2012 Vietti Arneis Roero complimented the flavors very well. I highly recommend the two together.




The party wrapped up on the late side and you could tell by glancing around the house that a good time was had by all. Every counter and tabletop was buried under food flotsam. The place was in tatters. I hope by the time this piece is published they’ve finally dug out from the affair. That being said, I’m sure they would say it was all worth it.




Dr. Jamie Landman & Dr. Bill Armstong

Dr. Jaime Landman & Dr. Bill Armstong



“You better cut the pizza in four slices because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” – Yogi Berra

Eat well!