In the June issue of FEAST Magazine, page 44, (Remember, this publication should become a must-read!) there was this awesome recipe for a Mulberry-Cashew Cream Cheesecake. The featured chef was making a point of using local, indigenous ingredients–mulberries. I had to make this dessert, too!

For one thing, the pie just looked sensational, and I was having a small dinner party. Second, my daughter was one of my guests, and Heather is both gluten- and dairy-free. And so is the pie!

Well mulberries might be a nice idea, but they were nowhere to be found when I needed them. The chef had suggested blueberries as a substitution. My market source for blueberries had none that week. But, blackberries were everywhere, and they proved to be a great choice.

This substitution was a pretty simple one, but sometimes the workable switches are not so easy to see. So ask your market growers to help you. They know their produce, but more importantly, after weeks of trips to their booth, they know you—probably know what you’ve been up to in the kitchen and how comfortable you are with culinary experimentation. Being able to carry on this kind of conversation with someone who grows your food is an invaluable and joyful experience, which will save you time and money in the long run—no special trips to stores, no paying outrageous prices for what’s not in season.

So how was that pie? Awesome. The only change I made, other than the berry switch, was to add a bit of salt to the cashew cream. I felt it needed just a bit to balance the rich sweet filling. I did this by using salted raw organic cashews instead of plain ones. This was probably somewhat risky, but it worked.

My Blackberry Cashew Cream Cheesecake

You can find this recipe in the archived issue online, or just read on below:

For the crust:

  • Two cups raw almonds (I chopped mine initially to help my processor—which can leave a little to be desired in the power department.)
  • One and half cups dried mission figs, chopped with stems removed
  • One cup almond flour
  • One teaspoon coconut oil

In the bowl of your food processor, blend the almonds on high until a flourlike consistency has formed. Add figs and almond flour and blend until mixture forms a sticky ball. Grease a glass pie pan with coconut oil. Using your hands, press almond-fig mixture firmly into the base of the pie pan, flattening and expanding as you go until the mixture is evenly distributed to form the crust. Set aside. For the filling:

  • Five cups raw cashews ( I used salted ones—use your own judgement)
  • ¾ cup plus two tablespoons honey, divided
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Three tablespoons vanilla extract
  • One and a half cups coconut milk
  • Three cups mulberries (I substituted blackberries, which are larger than mulberries, so I didn’t need quite as many.)
  • One tablespoon coconut oil

In the bowl of your food processor, blend cashews (again, I chopped up just a little first.) until a fine-powder consistency has formed. Add ¾ cup honey, lemon juice, vanilla extract and coconut oil to processor and process on high until smooth and creamy. (This took me two batches, since my processor bowl is small.)

Divide the cashew-cream mixture in half, reserving half in a small bowl and leaving remaining half in the bowl of the processor. Add two cups of berries to the mixture in the processor and continue to blend on high until creamy. Remove a half cup of the berry mixture to another small bowl. Set aside.

Transfer the remaining berry mixture to the prepared crust, spreading it evenly over the crust to form the first layer of the filling. Add reserved cashew cream filling and spread evenly over the berry layer. Then spread the remaining berry mixture in the center of the top layer.

Using a toothpick, slowly move the berry mixture on top from the center of the cake to the edge in a swirling motion. Drizzle remaining two tablespoons of honey on top of the cake and garnish with remaining cup of berries.

Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. (I found that chilling overnight yielded a better consistency for serving.). Definitely serve chilled.

Those blackberries were so wonderful that, of course, I bought extra. Berries freeze incredibly well and they make great stars in dishes way outside the dessert box—like salads.

Blackberries on tray ready for freezer

Berries are usually ready to throw in a dated freezer bag in a couple of hours.

I washed all the extra berries and let them dry on paper towels on the kitchen counter. I transferred half the berries to a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and placed in my freezer. Freezing the berries separately before dropping them in your freezer bag means you will be able to take them out separately, using only what you need, instead of the berries freezing together in a big clump.

The rest of the berries—about a half cup—were used to top a wilted greens salad. Here’s how I did it: Start with a cup of chopped kale leaves (tough stems removed) and two cups of roughly torn spinach leaves. Add some thinly sliced red onion (I used a mandolin. Me and the mandolin—we did not start out as friends. I’ll tell you about it sometime.), about a quarter cup and some chopped broccoli, about a half cup. Wilt this healthy mixture in a large bowl, using a dressing of the following:

  • One to two tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (I really recommend a brand called Bragg. This company has been around forever, and the founders were at the forefront of the organic health food movement. Their products are top notch, in my opinion.)
  • One to two tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • One tablespoon raw honey
  • About a quarter cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste

After about 15 minutes, plate the greens and top with dry toasted walnuts, a spoonful of good goat cheese and those blackberries. Simple, nutritious and impressive… but not hard!

Wilted Greens & Blackberry Salad

I chose to serve the salad on some deep purple plates, which enhanced the presentation. Candlelight didn’t hurt either.

What’s your favorite berry recipe? What innovative substitutions have you conjured up?

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