A few years ago my husband and I volunteered to prepare food for about 300 people at a charity event. It was quite an undertaking and we were fully prepared to do it on our own. Luckily, we didn’t have to. Scott and Gina have many years of restaurant experience between them and they offered to help us with our task. We couldn’t have had better allies.
We spent many hours over several weeks planning and preparing for the big day. As we worked we shared our stories and got to know one another. We had been acquaintances before; through this work we became friends. I’ll never forget the time that Gina stopped by where I was cooking to bring me some tacos for lunch. She’d gotten to know me well enough in the short time that we’d been working to know that because I was totally focused on the event, I had not even thought about eating. Not only did she realize that – she took care of it.
Since then we have shared dinners fairly often – well, as often as we can coordinate our schedules. We always look forward to catching up – and since we all love to cook, there is usually a feast to look forward to as well.
Tonight we planned a picnic in the park – and I decided to make a pie with Gina in mind. I started with this Peanut butter Cheesecake recipe from Paula Deen but I had to make some variations because Gina doesn’t eat foods with gluten. The first change to the recipe was to substitute homemade gluten free peanut butter cookies for the graham crackers.
Next, I substituted cornstarch for the flour in the cheesecake batter. And then, I was about to put the little peanut butter cups on the crust when I read this on the package “manufactured on the same equipment that processes wheat.” Damn. There went the peanut butter candy idea. But I can work with a challenge and so instead I added some peanut butter to a cup of the cheesecake batter and made a peanut butter swirl cheesecake.
Once the cheesecake was baked, I had to find a way to add some chocolate to it. The solution was so simple: using a paring knife I shaved off enough chocolate from a chunk of Guittard bittersweet chocolate to form a rim around the edge of this pie. And it was delightful. Just rich enough without being too much. My sincere thanks to Paula Dean for her inspiration – and to Gina and Scott for their continued friendship.