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maple syrup

Maple Cashew Cream

I first made a version of this for a dinner I catered for good friends who were celebrating their health and wellness coaching company. At first when tasked with coming up with five dairy and gluten free courses I was just the tiniest bit apprehensive. Of course I could do it, but would it be less fun of a meal? Would I be able to pull off a menu that stayed within the no dairy/no gluten perimeters, but didn’t taste like sawdust?  I wanted all forty guests to feel as though the entire evening was a treat. As I thought about all these things, the more it started to feel like a big, beautiful challenge.

A trip to meet the farm we partnered with added another layer of limitations, because I wanted to create the menu based on what they were harvesting that last week of July. And that’s kind of where the magic happened. The “dragon’s tongue” flat beans were gorgeous cream beans with bright purple stripes. Every time I see this bean, I think of Jack and the beanstalk and hope Jack’s beans were as stunning as these. They had just picked dark green bunches of kale, pink, purple and white Easter egg radishes, amaranth greens and mint. There were ripe heirloom tomatoes, bursting with a delicate juice just begging to be made into a basil infused consomme. I quickly scribbled on a piece of paper the vegetables, herbs and legumes I would have to work with, and as the wheels started turning, the pieces started to come together:

passed canape
cucumber, roasted garlic hummus, radish tartare

amuse
tomato consomme shooter

vegetable 1
arugula, easter egg radish, pickled yellow beans, farm egg salad

vegetable 2
massaged kale, dragon’s tongue snap beans, savory lentils, amaranth greens, mint pesto

main
braised hawks hill elk, quinoa, coconut milk curry, fat blossom farm vegetables

Savory always comes to me first when planning a menu, and I end up wrangling together a dessert, sticking close to the fruits of the season or a sure winner like the decadent flourless chocolate torte. So here I was, boxed into a corner with nowhere to look but up and outside my habitual go-to’s.  It really is a gift of circumstance, to be forced to get creative, especially with food.  It might not feel great at the start, but rarely disappoints in the end. Time and time again that’s how some of my most creative moments have come about in the kitchen. With odds and ends from the pantry and fridge, and a half hour to make dinner. Or in this case, a dessert with dietary restrictions and a creamy little vegan delight I had heard of called Cashew Cream.

I got to experimenting and soaking, adding vanilla bean and maple syrup, and before long had put together a dessert so simple I almost felt guilty, but it was a home run at the dinner so any guilty feelings dissipated pretty quickly once I saw a room of delighted faces:

dessert
stewed cherries, cashew cream, toasted coconut, dark chocolate

I filled a cocktail glass with cashew cream, added a spoon of stewed Michigan cherries that had been steeped with black peppercorn and rose petals, and sprinkled each glass with toasted coconut and dark chocolate shavings. I opted for a texture right in the middle, with the mouthfeel (almost) of whipped cream. You could also add more liquid to end up with a saucy texture like creme anglaise, or add less for a custard feel. If you are feeling feisty you can freeze it which results in a rich cheesecake-esque, ice-creamy goodness which I also highly recommend with some blueberries swirled in.

Ingredients

2 c. raw cashews
1 c. coconut milk (or water)
4 T. real maple syrup
1 vanilla bean (scraped) or 1 t. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Method

1.) Soak raw cashews in cold water overnight in the fridge or in hot water for 1 hour.
2.) Strain and discard water.
3.) Add soaked cashews, 1 c. water, maple syrup, vanilla and salt to a blender. Blend until smooth.
4.) Refrigerate until ready to use.

Component in Action

-Freeze for an ice cream treat
-Add more liquid to use as sauce
-Add less liquid to enjoy as a “custard”
-spoon cashew cream between layers of berries and dark chocolate
-a thicker version on pancakes or toast
-drizzle a thin version on spiced baked apples