My, how time flies. It’s mid-June, almost Father’s Day. Around these parts, that means that it’s about to get too hot for strawberries. It feels like just yesterday our farmer’s market just opened for the season with a few greens, beets, and spring onions. But now, I’m lugging home loads of produce – still beets and kale, but also strawberries and blueberries, peaches, plums, zucchini, tomatoes, okra, cream peas, big red onions, garlic, peppers, tomatillos, and more. There are even watermelons and cantaloupes starting to show up, brought from the southern parts of the state. Our warmer-than-normal spring is to blame for the early arrival of many of these favorites.
Not that I’m complaining – I’m bringing home a weekly CSA share, plus another one or two bags full, every Saturday morning. My cucumber plants are flourishing. (I’m harvesting 2-3 cukes a day!) I’m enjoying a plant-strong diet and feeling healthy and energized because of it.
But I am already realizing that some of my favorites will be gone soon. Strawberries, for one. I love to freeze berries so I can have them for smoothies, pies, and such, regardless of the time of year. I’ve already bought 12 pints of organic blueberries to freeze. Strawberries need to happen ASAP so I can be sure there are “cheesecakes” like this in the heat of the summer. There is nothing better than a cool, creamy, refreshing dessert to serve on a hot summer day.
Now, this isn’t cheesecake in the traditional sense. It’s not quite as rich as traditional cheesecake, but personally, I find that to be a plus. It’s still so creamy, and it bursts with bright berry flavors. I have made cashew cheesecakes before, but this is one of my new favorites. I think the mostly-raw approach to certain recipes, like this one, (the crust is the only part that’s not raw) really brings out the fresh flavor in foods. In the case of vegan cheesecakes, keeping the berries raw really makes the dessert sing of summer.
I’ve made this twice this year already – once, for my mother’s birthday and again for a coworker who was celebrating a birthday for someone avoiding gluten and dairy. Both times, it was a hit and was gone quickly. I think that means it’s successful; what do you think?
Strawberry “Cheesecake” with Almond-Macadamia Crust (gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free)
For the crust:
1/2 c macadamia nuts
1/4 c Medjool dates, pitted
1 c blanched almond flour
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t baking soda
2 T coconut oil
1/2 t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
Place the macadamia nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Process until they are fine crumbs (don’t process too long or they will become a paste and eventually a butter!). Add the dates, almond flour, salt, baking soda, coconut oil, and vanilla and process again until dates are chopped very finely.
Scoop out the dough and press out along the bottom of the springform pan evenly.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges brown. Allow to cool completely.
For the filling:
3 c cashews, soaked at least 4 hours, preferably overnight
3/4 c agave nectar
1 T lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
6 T lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
1/2 c coconut oil, melted
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
32 oz strawberries (if frozen, thaw before using), plus additional if you wish to decorate the top
Drain the cashews and place in a high-powered blender. Start to blend on a low speed until the cashews turn to crumbs and paste. Add the agave, lemon zest, lemon juice, and coconut oil and continue to blend, stopping to scrape down the sides often, until the puree is creamy and no more bits of nuts remain. This may take a while, even with a high-powered blender. If you don’t have a high-powered blender, you may be more successful using your food processor. (I’ve made this with a regular blender before, but it took longer and I had to add a bit of water to “get it going”.) Once the “cheesecake” is sufficiently creamy, add the vanilla and salt and add half of the strawberries. Blend until no more strawberry chunks remain. Add remaining strawberries and blend again until creamy, scraping down the sides of the blender as needed.
Pour the strawberry puree into the springform pan once the crust is cool, spreading out evenly with a spatula. Place in the freezer for 4 hours or until firm. You can freeze overnight or even for more than a day; if you do, place in refrigerator several hours before serving to thaw. If desired, you can slice additional strawberries and decorate the top of the cheesecake.
(I was told by my friend that even leaving this cheesecake in the fridge for an entire day worked; that it held its shape. I haven’t tried this myself, but I imagine there is enough coconut oil to keep it firm.)
This post is linked to Iris’s 2nd Annual Gluten-Free Birthday Cake Challenge at The Daily Dietribe, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free, and Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs.