With its exquisite lemon-oil fragrance, lemon verbena adds a sophisticated accent to a creamy vanilla cheesecake. Lemon verbena is also a perfect complement to strawberries. A generous quantity of fruit and a slender slice of cheesecake make a balanced finish to a fine meal.
vanilla wafers, (see Ingredient note)
1% cottage cheese, (2 cups)
reduced-fat cream cheese, (Neufchatel), cut into pieces
fresh lemon juice
large eggs, lightly beaten
finely chopped fresh lemon verbena, or lemon balm (see Tip)
Lemon verbena or lemon balm sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan
with cooking spray. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double thickness of foil. Put a kettle of water on to boil for the water bath.
To prepare crust
: Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor into fine crumbs. Add oil and pulse to blend. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. (Rinse and dry the workbowl.)
To prepare filling: Process cottage cheese
in the food processor until very smooth and silky, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and salt; process until well blended. Add eggs and pulse several times just until mixed in. Sprinkle in lemon verbena (or lemon balm); mix with a rubber spatula. (Do not process.) Scrape the filling into the crust.
Place the cheesecake in a shallow roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch up the outside of the springform pan
. Bake until the edges are set but the center quivers slightly, 50 to 55 minutes. Turn off the oven. Let the cheesecake cool in the oven, with the door ajar, for 1 hour.
Remove foil from pan. Cover cheesecake with plastic wrap
and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.
To prepare topping: About 1/2 hour before serving, rinse strawberries
. Set aside 3 whole berries for garnish; hull remaining berries and slice into a bowl. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar and toss to coat. Let stand until strawberries are juicy, 20 to 30 minutes.
To serve, place cheesecake
on a platter and run a knife around the inside of the pan; remove pan sides. Make 3 lengthwise cuts in each whole berry; press lightly and arrange fanned berries in the center of the cheesecake. Garnish with a sprig of lemon verbena (or lemon balm). Top each serving with strawberries and juice and garnish with another sprig of verbena (or lemon balm).
Ingredient note: To avoid trans-fatty acids, look for brands that do not contain partially hydrogenated canola oil
, such as Mi-Del Vanilla Snaps (found in natural-foods stores and large supermarkets).
Tip: If you cannot find lemon verbena or lemon balm, use 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Calories 188, Total Fat 6 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Monounsaturated Fat 1 g, Cholesterol 51 mg, Sodium 226 mg, Carbohydrate 27 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 7 g, Potassium 149 mg. Exchanges: Starch 1,Fruit 0.5,Lean Meat 1,Fat 1.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet