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Kitchen Mailbox: Limes, lemons make refreshing pies, cheesecake

Thursday, June 22, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If we were asked which fruits made the most refreshing summer desserts, our immediate response would be lemons and limes. Their tangy flavor gives desserts a kick that keeps us coming back for more. And the bright colors add a tempting presentation to any fruit tray.

Our first three recipes are versions of Florida's famous Key Lime Pie. Key Lime pie was popular in the Florida Keys as early as 1890. However, it wasn't until sometime in the 20th century that Key Lime Pie became popular with the rest of the country. The original pie was and is made with Key limes. And about the only place you can find Key limes is in Florida (there's a slight chance that some specialty stores might sell them; call first).

It's the Persian lime that's widely available and what we're familiar with. A Persian lime is about the same size as a lemon, and has a bright green skin. Key limes are smaller and rounder and they're more yellow than green.

Limes or lemons can be kept up to 10 days as long as they're kept in a plastic bag in the refrigerator -- if they're sliced, up to 5 days. Select limes that are heavy for their size (that means the flesh is juicy). To yield the most juice, use lemons and limes at room temperature.

On to our recipes.

We have three Key Lime Pie recipes and one lemon cheesecake recipe. All three Key lime pie recipes called for either a graham cracker crust or cookie crust. We found that the prepared pie crusts weren't large enough to hold all the filling, so we made our own (recipes below). The Easy Key Lime Pie and the Creamy Key Lime Pie may be served with whipped cream or, if you like, fresh fruit, or both.

The last Key lime pie boasts Papaya Rum Sauce, and it's outstanding. For this pie we decided to be daring and substitute ginger snaps for graham cracker crumbs -- it turned out quite well.

Our last offering, Lemon Cheesecake, is incredibly easy. The filling has a creamy texture and the distinctive flavor of lemon.

If you decide to make any of the pies, make sure you have someone to share it with. If you don't, you may end up eating the entire pie yourself -- they are that good.

Dottie Karel of Dorseyville requested a recipe for Key Lime Pie using cream cheese.

For our readers who watch their fat intake, Melanie Bates of Trafford tells us her Easy Key Lime Pie can be made low-fat.

Easy Key Lime Pie

1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce package frozen whipped topping
1 cup lime juice (4 to 5 limes or 1 18-ounce bottle)
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust

Blend first four ingredients in a food processor. Pour into crust. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve chilled.

LaVerne Porta of McKees Rocks told Kitchen Mailbox she's been making Creamy Key Lime Pie for more than 10 years and people still enjoy it. We certainly did!

Creamy Key Lime Pie

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated
1 cup evaporated milk, not diluted
1/3 cup lime juice (2 to 3 limes)
1 prepared 8-inch cookie crumb crust, (vanilla or chocolate)

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add condensed milk and evaporated milk. Add lime juice and beat all for 1 minute. Pour into cookie crust. Freeze for two hours. Let stand at room temperature and garnish with whipped topping and lime slices.

Barbara Hardoby of Penn Hills writes: "The Virgin Islands' yearly calendar features recipes from its restaurants. The following recipe was included. I have tried it and it is delicious. I did not make the sauce but used whipped topping and kiwi for garnish. I used light cream cheese and substituted Eggbeaters for the eggs." We made the sauce, and decided the next time we make it we'll double the recipe.

Key Lime Cheesecake With Papaya-Rum Sauce

5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
2 9-inch graham cracker crusts

Papaya-Rum Sauce:
1 small papaya
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons dark rum
Lime slices, for garnish

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually add sugar. Beat in eggs. Stir in salt, vanilla and lime juice.

Pour mixture into crusts -- bake at 300 for 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack, cover and chill 8 hours.

To make the sauce: Peel, slice, seed and chop papaya. Place papaya, honey and rum in medium saucepan -- bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Mash papaya with spoon to make a smoother sauce. Chill. Spoon sauce over cake wedges, garnish with lime twist. Serves 8 to 10.

Note: We suggest doubling the sauce recipe.

Bobbie Gick of Dormont sent us this easy cheesecake. Gick tells us, "This is a lemony cheesecake recipe that was served at the Copper Kettle restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn. It is my favorite cheesecake and doesn't need a springform pan."

Lemon Cheesecake

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

Liberally butter a 2-quart souffle dish, coat with graham cracker crumbs, then shake off excess.

Mix all ingredients together on high speed of electric mixer for 6 to 7 minutes. Pour into prepared souffle dish and shake to level. Place cheesecake in a large pan with 1 inch of water. Place on middle rack of oven and bake at 325 degrees for 11/2 hours until brown. Turn oven off -- leave cake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove cake from oven, cool on rack for about three hours before removing. Turn cheesecake out onto plate or cake dish.

Graham Cracker or Ginger Snap Cookies Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs or ginger snap crumbs, see note
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In small bowl, combine all ingredients. Press onto bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 10 minutes. Cool before filling.

Note: We used a food processor to make the ginger snap crumbs.

Cookie Crust

2 cups vanilla wafers
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

Combine crumbs with butter, press on bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Refrigerate until ready to use.

If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.

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