vegan cheesecake with rhubarb jam


Alright, so I know what you might be thinking. How? See, I knew you were thinking that, too. Because when it comes to vegan food, there are certain things that can be done with no telltale signs of anything being missing. I've had my fair share of vegan ice creams that don't make me miss the the cream. I've had baked goods like cookies and cakes and felt nothing but pure joy with every bite (I'm pretty enthusiastic about food, so). Even traditional takes on things like eggplant parm have gone over well: all I did was hold the parm and offer no half-ass substitute, and you know what? Still good.

The line always comes with cheese though. It's a tough flavor and texture to replicate. And cheesecake, I anticipated, would be no different. Even with added ingredients and flavors, I had a tough time being a believer. Until this past New Year's Eve, that is, when Sprig & Vine delivered a vegan pumpkin cheesecake that could have rivaled any traditional take I had ever tried. I talked about it for a long time after, and clearly I haven't stopped since.

So when I decided to make my own version of a vegan cheesecake, I decided to go summer-y with the classic combination of tart, ruby rhubarb and fresh strawberries.

So what's the secret, you want to know? What are we doing about our lack of cheese? Lean in close: it's cashews, and lots of 'em.

For this recipe, you'll need:

For the cheesecake:

3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the topping:

5 cups rhubarb, chopped
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
8-10 medium strawberries, halved

Begin by soaking your cashews in about six cups of water. I just put them in a huge bowl before I went to bed and left them there until morning, which is really the best way to do it. The longer they soak, the softer they'll get and the easier they'll be to blend up to a nice, creamy consistency.

You can also make your rhubarb topping the day before if you're looking to save a little time. It's super simple, but this will ensure that it's chilled and ready to go when your cheesecake is done. In a medium sauce pan, add your rhubarb and sugar. Toss together to evenly coat and cook on medium-low heat or until the rhubarb has fully broken down into a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat. Allow to cool on a stovetop for about twenty minutes.

At this point, you can choose to leave the topping as is if you'd like to retain a little texture. Personally, I'm a bigger fan of this topping when it's smooth, so you can blend it up using a handheld or traditional blender until uniform. (Any leftovers are great for topping toast or oatmeal or just eating with a spoon.)

In the bowl of a food processor, add your almond flour, pecans, dates and sea salt. Pulse until broken down into a medium-to-fine crumb. What you're looking for is for the crust to hold together when you pinch a small piece between your fingers. If you find it helps, add a teaspoon of water to encourage a little more stickiness. Once you've gotten to the right texture, evenly press the mixture into the bottom of a tart or springform pan and transfer to the refrigerator.

For the filling, add your cashews, lemon juice, maple syrup, coconut oil and sea salt to a high power blender. Blend on high until completely smooth (which really shouldn't take long considering how long the cashews have been soaking). What you're looking for is a filling that's smooth but still holds up in solid peaks when dipped into with a spoon. Spread evenly on top of the crust and return to the refrigerator to chill for 3-4 hours or until firm.

When you're ready to serve, top with the rhubarb jam and decorate with fresh strawberries. A sprig of fresh mint in the center adds a pretty touch. Enjoy!