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Savory Herbed Cheesecake Recipe

4 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 cup)
1 cup dried bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted (5 tablespoons)

10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened (three 8-ounce packages)
8 ounces creme fraiche or sour cream (1 cup)
3 eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chervil
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup finely diced carrot
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 egg whites, at room temperature
Additional herbs and/or vegetables, for decoration

To make crust: Mix Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs, rosemary and butter in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

To make filling: Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place the unpeeled cloves of garlic in a small ramekin or ovenproof dish and drizzle with the olive oil. Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until soft when tested with the tip of a knife. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins and mash or chop the garlic, along with the olive oil, to a puree. Combine the garlic puree, cream cheese, creme fraiche, whole eggs, flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 2 minutes. Add the parsley, chervil, basil, oregano and sage and process for 1 minute. Pour the cream cheese mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the red bell pepper and carrot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Blend a spoonful of egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the chilled crust. Line a baking pan with foil and set the springform pan on top of the foil (to catch any drips). Using the additional herbs and vegetables, float a design on top of the batter.

Place the cheesecake in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. When done, the cake will have risen and the center will be almost set. Turn the oven off and allow the cheesecake to remain in the oven for 1 hour longer, without opening the door. Don't worry if the cake is cracked. Remove the cheesecake and set it on a rack to cool for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Loosen the cheesecake from the bottom of the pan, using a knife, and slide it onto a serving plate.

Serve at room temperature, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving and allow it to come to room temperature. If desired, decorate the top of the cheesecake using herbs and or vegetables.


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