I think I may have mentioned before that I spent over a decade of my somewhat winding career path working for a nonprofit. And as many of you out there in the nonprofit world know, a Board of Directors largely rules your world when you run one. Well-meaning (mostly), very busy people with important day jobs, these generous folk give their time and wisdom to your worthy cause without pay, save for the occasional bagel or danish and bad coffee. These days as I continue my quest for a real job, I find that boards are still having a profound effect on my life. At least the ones who function in the thankless job of search committees. Like the unseen omnipotent gods on Mount Olympus, they “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” we job seekers at will. Sure, I’d prefer they take one look at my credentials and say “Hell Yes,” but I don’t get too bent out of shape when the vote is a resounding “meh, next.” I’ve been around this block way too many times for that. They are only doing their job, and as one who’s sat on a search committee myself, fun it’s not.
When I think about it, “boards” of one sort or another have always had a profound effect on my life. The only difference between these boards and the ones above are that they often sit around a dining room table. MY dining room table, and they require payment in exchange for their insight. Luckily their preferred currency is food, cocktails or mani-pedis. I can handle that. And they know that whenever I have something important to share, something gnawing on me that requires input, or some much-needed venting that requires amplification from my well-fed and liquored-up friends, I call a “board meeting.” The directors can vary, the topics on the agenda too, but when I call, they come. It could be the usual group of well-loved and well-fed friends around my table, a “minyan of women” at a girlfriend's monthly brunch, the family around diner linoleum with omelets and French toast mid-bite, pals perched in massage chairs with feet mid-buff and polish, or bartenders, a doorman, random strangers within earshot and a best buddy, accompanied by vodka and bar nuts.
Lest you think this is all just an excuse to get together over great food or a little pampering, I assure you it's not. Great intellectual and philosophical questions are posed during our meetings, and like the G8 we give great thought to our answers. Here’s just a sampling of the issues and questions we’ve tackled:
- Economics:The costs of relationships — with men, with women, and more importantly, with shoes.
- Healthcare:“My sister-in-law, who I really don't like, asked me to carry my brother’s baby in my womb. Should I do it?” (I believe the response from the minivan was: “Are You F---ing Nuts?!”)
- Ethics and Religion: Bad karma or not — wishing bad hair dye jobs, nasty paper cuts, weight gain and pimples on ex-boyfriends who have done evil to you? (See my post on “The S.O.A.B.R.B. Dinner Party” for a transcript of the board minutes.)
- Public Safety:How dangerous is it for a guy to iron while buck-naked?
- Cultural Anthropology:(In the context of discussing the definitions of descriptions used in personal ads in the newspaper.) Outdoorsy = doesn’t bathe; ruggedly handsome = very hairy back; well-mannered and old-fashioned = lives with his mother.
As you can see, my boards tackle quite weighty issues, and have never failed to offer sage wisdom (when they aren't laughing too hard or eating.) I'm quite certain I'd be lost without them.
A recent “board meeting” featured a lengthy discussion of the value of looking at price tags before you plunk down your American Express, (regardless of the hotness of sales clerk), and this wonderful cheesecake from my friend Martha. Light and lemony, it’s a terrific end to a great meal, and is definitely going on the agenda of my next board meeting.
Martha’s Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake
Martha mentioned she got the original recipe from the Internet, but since she didn't remember which site and revised it to her tastes, this will now be known as Martha’s Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake in my book. The night I had it she left off the glaze and I don’t think any of us missed it.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
15 ounces whole milk ricotta (I prefer Trader Joe's ricotta — it is a bit drier. I also let the ricotta drain in a colander lined with a paper towel for a few hours in the refrigerator.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups powdered sugar
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10” spring form pan. Set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the ricotta and blend until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, incorporating well. Add the vanilla, lemon juice/zest and mix until fully combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients in 2 increments, mixing until just incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out as needed. Batter will be very thick. Bake 35-40 min, or until the cake is set and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let cool in pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
To make the glaze: Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of cake and serve.
Fresh strawberries or other berries would be a great addition to this cake.