New York was a rough town, dense with debris and muggers. I learned this from young-adult novels in which thugs roamed the island, terrorizing kittens. So I was circumspect about my first visit, at 14.
My older brother and I took a taxi from the airport; it hurtled across the nightscape, stopping at Broadway and 112th, where I stumbled out, a convert. New York was a swirl of lights and crowds and energy. The streets beat out a vibrant rhythm, one I'd never heard in Iowa.
Back home my brother drew a soaring cityscape and two street-level dots, marked "me and you."
After my brother moved to 26th Street, and before I moved to 26th Street, I visited him. He sliced up a low pale disk he'd bought in Little Italy. He said it was cheesecake.
This cheesecake was entirely different: almost crumbly, with a bright fresh-milk flavor. It was speckled with crisp almonds and plump blueberries. I had no idea that ricotta, in place of cream cheese, could convert the heavy cake into fluffy pie. It was another New York revelation. One of many to come.
Prep: 45 minutes
Bake: About 45 minutes
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces amaretto cookies (or sub 8 full graham crackers)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
1 pound (or 1 15-ounce package) whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated