In the culinary world, and I think (finally!) in the upper right quadrant of the states, spring has sprung and bumper crops of asparagus, strawberries, and new potatoes are flooding the farmers’ markets and produce departments. Inspired by some really flavorful strawberries and a desire to create a dessert that would work for a Passover or Easter dinner, I created a strawberry cheesecake. It’s definitely vegan, almost “raw” and by some standards, “Paleo”. Okay, so I took a little culinary leeway on the last eating-style category, as I’m not sure if the cave people were sugaring back in the day. I’m also pretty sure that they were eating more slugs than wild salmon from Whole Foods, but I digress……. I love making raw, vegan “cheese” cakes because they are a cinch: If you can turn on a blender, you can make one in a snap. The cleanup is minimal as well.
Tips for Making Raw Vegan Cheesecakes
Tip #1 Salt. I used a “pinch” of sea salt in both the crust and the filling. A pinch is equal to 1/8th of a teaspoon. A little salt rounds out layers of complexity in dishes; especially desserts.
Tip #2 Acid. In other articles, I’ve talked about the importance of establishing balance and developing layers of flavor and how acid is instrumental in doing just that. There is a hefty dose (1/2 Cup Lemon Juice) of acid in this dessert–it provides both tang and balance.
Tip #3 Sweetener. Unlike some agave nectars, maple syrup is not a raw product, so I can’t claim that this is a TRULY RAW, vegan dessert. However, I think that it is superior to agave in terms of flavor. Both have about the same viscosity, so you can use them interchangeably in recipes. I actually use a little bit of maple syrup to balance out chilis and pasta sauces. Jim was supposed to bring the motherload of Maple Syrup from Vermont because true friends don’t let true friends use fake syrup. Note to anyone from the Northeast who is thinking of visiting me: I never have enough maple syrup. A
damn good whoopie pie 4 pack of Heady Topper iruns a close second in the category of Favorite-Things-New Englanders-Bring-Leslie-When-They-Visit-San-Diego. WARNING: DON’T USE IMITATION MAPLE SYRUP. Because if you use fake syrup, no one will eat your dessert. And when no one eats dessert, it gets fed to the dog. And when the dog eats too much dessert full of High Fructose Corn Syrup…..well, we all know what happens. It’s kinda like the Direct TV ad that starts with paragliding and ends up with someone getting punched over a can of soup–there WILL be a freakish snowball effect when you use imitation maple syrup. BLECH.
Tip #4 I’m not sure if this always holds trues, but this week I found that the RIPE strawberries with smaller seeds were more flavorful than those that were RED but with bigger seeds. Fun fact: Strawberries are the only fruit whose seeds are on the outside.
Almost Raw Strawberry Vegan Cheesecake
12-16 decent size slices
- 2 Cups Raw Almonds
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Zest, optional
- pn Sea Salt
- 6 Medjool Dates, pitted
- 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
- 6 Medjool Dates, pitted
- 3 Cups Cashews, soaked at least 3 hours and up to overnight; drained
- 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup (I used Vermont Maple Syrup from Running Saps)
- 3.5 Cups Strawberries (first, wash, hull and cut in half. Then measure)
- 3/4 Cup Coconut Oil, liquid (will liquify if over 75 degrees)
- 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract or 1 tsp Vanilla Powder (I used the later)
- 1 Tbsp Orange Zest
- 1 tsp Strawberry Extract (optional)
- pn Sea Salt
- Optional: 1.75 Cups Strawberries for Garnish/Topping (about 1 pound), kept whole and sliced lengthwise
- 3 Cups sliced Strawberries
- 3 Medjool Dates, Pitted
- 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
- Line a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper cut into a 9 inch circle. I use “repurposed” 9″ circles that separate each tortilla in the brown rice tortilla package. Lining the pan isn’t totally necessary, but I find that you can cut or move the cheesecake more cleanly.
- In a food processor fitted with an “S” blade, combine the Almonds, Lemon Zest and Sea Salt. Process until pieces of almond are very small, but not flour-like. Add dates and process until crust starts to come together. This should resemble a crumbly cookie dough
- Press into bottom and halfway up sides of springform pan. Set aside
- In a high speed blender, combine Lemon Juice and Dates. Let sit for 1/2 hour to soften Dates
- Combine the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth.
- Pour into springform pan and chill at least 6 hours. If you need to expedite this, place in freezer.
- Puree all ingredients in high speed blender. Due to the addition of chia seeds, the sauce will continue to thicken as it sits.
- Top cake with sliced strawberries, slice and serve with strawberry sauce.
- Keep cake chilled at all times otherwise it gets a little soft and loses its form
Since I’ve been back to running, I’ve timed many of my runs to coincide with low tide. There’s a great app call Tide Graph which I’ll check in with before I plan my run. Today, I was able to run the length of Del Mar and Torrey Pines on the beach. I couldn’t ask for a better backyard.
Happy Spring to all.
Next up: Boise 70.3