Chicago has a few raw food restaurants dotting the city and suburbs and one of the most highly-rated and longest-standing is Borrowed Earth Cafe, which happens to be just a short walk from my parent’s house in Downers Grove. Raw food may not be the most obvious choice for lunch on a sub-zero, snow-laden Chicago winter afternoon, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a raw food fix while I was visiting last January. And I had the best company: my mom and my friend, Jim, both veggies and who I knew would appreciate an elaborate lunch of raw recreations of some of our favourite foods such as lasagne, pierogi, gyros and tortilla soup. Each dish was a work of art in itself and given all of the sprouting, dehydrating, chopping, blending and juicing that went into out meal, we were looking at hours and days of work behind each and every dish.
At some point during our meal, I commented that if anyone was going to go 100% raw, and really do it like they mean it (as Borrowed Earth owners Kathy and Danny do), then they might as well open a cafe because there’s no sense in putting that much time into a dish that’s only going to serve one or two people. So kudos to Kathy and Danny for bringing raw food to the masses, especially those super elaborate dishes that require tools that most of us mere mortals don’t have (dehydrator, sprouter, Vitamix, copious amounts of time and patience, etc).
Fortunately, as Kathy and Danny teach on their raw food workshops, not all raw delights require fancy tools and excessive amounts of time. Raw desserts are particularly “easy”. During that aforementioned lunch, we finished with a raw raspberry “cheesecake” that put conventional dairy-based cheesecakes to shame. Raw or not, this was an amazing desert, and I’m very grateful to Kathy for sharing the recipe with me today. You will need a blender and a food processor, and a cheesecake pan, but all of the ingredients are readily available and the result make it totally the worth the effort. This is a wow-and-amaze-your-guests sort of dessert, so be prepared to share and don’t expect any leftovers (but if you do have leftovers, it keeps nicely in the fridge for about a week, and it freezes well, too).
Raw Raspberry Cheesecake
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts
- 1/2 cup Medjool Dates, pitted
- 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes
- 3 cups cashews that have been soaked in water at least 3 hours.
- 3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- 3/4 cup agave nectar, coconut nectar or honey
- 3/4 cup of coconut oil
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
- 2 cups of fresh or frozen raspberries
- 3/4 cup Medjool Dates, pitted
- 8″ or 9″ springform cheesecake pan
- food processor
- First make the crust: Place the walnuts in your food processor and, using the S-blade, grind or pulse until the nuts are ground down to a medium texture. Add Medjool Dates and the coconut flakes and process again until a dough-like texture forms. Place the “dough” into your cheesecake pan and and spread out on the bottom of the pan. Press firmly and use a small offset spatula to get an even surface.
- Make the filling: Put all of the above filling ingredients into your high speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. If you are not using a Vitamix or Blentec or other high speed blender, you might want to divide the filling in half and do half at a time so your blender can handle the consistency.
- Pour the filling into your cheesecake pan. (If you have some extra raspberries you can stir those into the cheesecake and place the cheesecake in the freezer for several hours until firm or overnight.)
- Make the topping: when the cheesecake is frozen, remove from the freezer and springform pan and place on cake plate.
- Put topping ingredients into your food processor and process until well blended. “Frost” the top of your cheesecake with the filling. You can top extra raspberries or coconut flakes on top if you like.
BONUS: Check it out, the “crust” recipe can also be used to make cookies. Just use the same recipe and roll quickly between the palms of your hands to make 1/2 golf ball-sized balls (or, go crazy, the size of the WHOLE golf ball). You can leave them round or press them flat and chill and serve.
You should get 8 slices out of the cheescake and it will keep for about a week in the refrigerator, or you can put it back in the freezer for longer life.