It’s the great pumpkin cheezcake: Spiced lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust

So one of the best parts about being married to an expat is that you get to go visit their family in their home country every so often. Every other year, around Christmas time, we go to France. While the food in France elicits nothing short of a mouthgasm, around the holidays with the multiple family parties and birthdays, it is rich, decadent and overwhelming.  I try to make a meal or a dish here and there to lighten the fare. I don’t speak French so I find sharing experiences and communicating through food a beautiful way to express love. I will make them food they will be pleased with because of simple tastes and aesthetic beauty – like apple roses that I upscale to make them unique. But I am Indian and I like spice and complex flavors full of good healthy ingredients – even for sweets (no flour, no refined sugar, no soy…whole food ingredients). So I came up with a spiced  lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust.

France is the land of my favorite food I try to avoid: bread, cheese, salted butter, cream wine and champagne. Ok. So I don’t avoid the wine and champagne. And butter I don’t necessarily avoid – but replace with coconut oil or ghee. But every time I go, I promise myself I will not do is over-indulge on the wine, cheese, bread, butter and cream. But when vegetables are scarce on the family table, vegetarian substitutes are heavy pasta with cream sauce and salads are more dressing than lettuce, as a vegetarian, I find it difficult not to indulge in the things I should not.This year I am in luck. my sister-in-law has been vegetarian, my brother-in-law has started to experiemtn with vegetarian cooking and my mother-in-law is into “healthier” cuisine. And although they forget, they love my cooking when they visit us in the states (or so I hear…). So this year I packed my bags with a spiralizer, a mandoline (yes I know it is a French culinary instrument, but apparently not used in their home), a cook book called At the French Market  all about vegetarian french recipes so i could spend sometime cooking with them. Now that I don’t have to focus on the veggies as an obstacle to introduce to the fare, I focused on desserts.  The apple roses to please them, the cashew-based cheezcake to expand their minds.

I  love the fall and winter for the plethora of pumpkins and squashes. They are abundant here and in France. Except in France the season is not dictated by “pumpkin flavored”  or “pumpkin spiced” (insert edible or aromatic here). So I roasted a seeded pumpkin for about 45 min until tender an made it into a puree…of course you can use a canned pumpkin puree, but fresh offers so many more nutrients.

I set this aside while I focused on the crust. Add pecans and walnuts to a food processor and grind into a meal, then added dates along with cinnamon and salt until it was sandy in texture.
 I pressed this into a baking pan (or use two spring form rounds if you want it to be more like a cake) until it was firmly pressed and placed it into fridge. This crust is a bit crumbly. if you want something firmer that holds up more when you serve it, I would suggest adding a bit of water and a few more dates and processing until it is more gooey than sandy. However, this will form a harder crust.
 For the cheesecake, I used soaked cashews and separately soaked dates – both soaked for 3 hours to overnight as the base. But first I blended dates until they were liquid – this serves as the sweetner. I saved the date water for pureeing.

I then added the drained and soaked cashews, pumpkin puree, spices and lemon juice and pureed until smooth. The spices I used were fresh spices – that remind me of fall (cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, clove, allspice). I love my microplane to grate whole fresh nutmeg. The lemon juice cuts through the fat.IMAG8659 (1)I pureed until smooth – using the date liquid as needed during the blending. I then poured it over the date nut crust.IMAG8648

I smoothed it out until evenly distributed.

And garnished with coconut flakes, which I love.
I placed this into the freezer for two hours. Took it out, let it thaw until it could be easily cut and served.
A very different kind of rich and decadent dessert. And very cold. Beware this can harden in the freezer, so be sure to thaw it enough before serving so that the rich and decadent yet light to the taste flavors can be savored.
I can’t wait to make this over the holidays. Happy Eating.
Lemon Pumpkin Cheezcake
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 pecans
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 cups cashews, soaked overnight, water drained
  • 10 dates, soaked overnight
  • 1 and 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp salt
  • coconut flakes (optional)

For the crust:

Oil a 9 x 12 pan with coconut oil.

Add pecans and walnuts to a food processor and grind into a meal. Add dates, salt and cinnamon and incorporate. Process on and off until sandy like in texture. Press into the baking dish – distribute evenly and press down firmly. Place into fridge.

For the cheesecake:

Soak the cashews in water for 3 hour to overnight. Discard the water.

Add dates to a food processor with a little bit of the soaked water and puree until smooth. Add soaked cashews, pumpkin puree, spices and lemon juice and puree until smooth – about 5-10 minutes depending on the food processor. It should be smooth and creamy – not grainy or textured (otherwise keep blending). Push down side every so often so it it fully mixed. add a little bit of date soaking liquid as needed but not too much as the filling must not be liquid.

Pour over date nut crust evenly and top with coconut flakes or desired garnish as needed. Freeze for at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve. Can stay in freezer for up to 2 weeks.

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