Lemon Tofu Cheesecake & Balsamic Strawberry Compote

Until February of this year, Ari and I participated in a weekly ritual called Inquiry Group (IQ for short).  In IQ, we would assemble in groups of eight people to discuss patient cases written by our professors for whatever discipline we were studying.  For instance, Down syndrome for genetics, Crohn’s for gastrointestinal, heart failure for physiology.  And diabetes for everything.  I was talking to a female classmate at the end of one of our blocks, and she said that her preceptor left the women in her group some unique feedback.
“Ladies,” he said, “you do great research and you present yourselves very well.  However, when you make a statement or get up to the whiteboard to illustrate something, you preamble it by saying ‘this probably isn’t right,’ or ‘I may be making this up.’  You’re not willing to commit to what you’re saying, even though it is usually correct.  Stop pre-apologizing.  The lack of confidence dismisses your contribution before you even share it.”

These words stayed with me because I realized I live my life that way.  In medical school, I’m loath to assert my opinion or be the most confident person in a group.  Deference is usually yielded to a male classmate, and I don’t blame him for taking over in the wake of my own silence.  The same goes for cooking — I tend to serve people my food, including this cheesecake, with a side of limp, overcooked regret.  “This really didn’t turn out how I meant it,” or “you’re not going to like it.”  I convince myself that if I’m the first person to hold myself back or self-disparage, then no one else will have to do it.
I’m declaring today the last day of apologies.  I can still admit when I’m wrong, but until then I’m going to be proud of my work in the hospital and proud of the food I make because I did both with all of the knowledge I have and everything I’m capable of.  It’s both the easiest and the hardest way to become better at something–to dismiss the master critic crouching inside your own head.

Ingredients (adapted from rsarahl on food.com.  Although the topping is mine!)

  • 1 lb soft silken tofu
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of two lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons soymilk (or regular milk)
  • 1/2 packet gelatin (one of my additions.  skip this for a less solid and more creamy result, I suspect)
  • 1 pre-made graham pie crust
  • 2 Tbsp honey, 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, and at least 8 strawberries for the compote

Fair warning:  This eats more like a custard than a cheesecake, and there’s no denying a bit of a tofu taste.  However, the lemon does shine through, and combined with a classic crust it’s something I ate half of before the requisite 24 hour wait had passed.  The compote brings it all together.
Plan to make this a day ahead.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into the pie crust, and place on the middle rack of the oven.  Bake for about 30 minutes, plus or minus 5 minutes to try to get a slightly golden top.  Cool on top of the stove, then put a plate or some plastic wrap on top and store in the refrigerator.  The weird tofu flavor mellows out after 24 hours of fridge time.
To make the compote: place 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in a medium saucepan and cook until it looks like it’s going to simmer.  Hull and slice 8 medium strawberries and place in the mixture, gently mixing to coat the strawberries but keep them intact.  Keep cooking on medium to medium-low heat until the mixture looks thicker.  Store in a tupperware in the fridge and spoon over the sliced cheesecake the next day.
You could also top the entire cheesecake with it.  I recommend this compote because it masks the residual tofu taste.  You might actually be able to fool people into thinking it’s a real cheesecake with this extra gustatory distraction.
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7 Responses to Lemon Tofu Cheesecake & Balsamic Strawberry Compote

  1. Smita says:


    The cheesecake was delicious. Although “tofu is good for you” I did not taste it at all!

    Also we women need to get out of our own way. I had the benefit of growing up with two brothers and realized that quite early in life. It has shaped my personality ever since. So kudos to you and the preceptor.

  2. Vijay says:

    I am not a fan of lemony taste but the tofu cheese cake you served us had a delightful but subtle amalgam of tastes where lemon did not over power anything. It was a delectable treat.

  3. Chuck says:

    Anita, Your self examination is insightful. The ability to adapt yourself will hold you in good stead. The tofu cheesecake looks very good. I’ll try it sometime soon.

  4. Bridget says:

    Excited to try this new cheesecake/custard. Never apologize for your overall amazingness. Go Anita!

  5. Amanda says:

    I’ve noticed that some people will apologize before they speak- and not just women. It burns my ears the same way someone repeatedly saying “um” does. It makes me not really pay attention to what they’re saying.

    And a cheesecake made with tofu?! Sounds bizarre but I would love to try it!

  6. Salma says:

    I just saw this, I love it! WILL MAKE THIS VERY SOON!

  7. Salma says:

    Also, my brother shared the same lesson with me actually :). I have to say, it’s easier said than done, but I did improve. It’s the easiest when I’m cooking Arabic food that no one really knows how it’s *really* supposed to taste, so I just try not to say anything (unless it’s a disaster :P).

    As for classes, my comments are you usually at the end of my sentences, with my infamous “but I’m not really sure”. Our TA for our Communications for Engineers class made sure we never ever said that in class (we had to tell stories in class every day). lol, never thought I’d remember something from that class 😛

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