I’ve posted about another secret restaurant before; this weekend we had our fourth since beginning almost a year ago. So many in attendance asked me to blog about the food that I’m doing it before I forget what I made!
Our amazing designer friend created a beautiful dining area for 24; three tables of 8, each including an ice sculpture centerpiece, and each crowned by a differently-shaped white paper parchment lamp. He has made use of a great collection of thrift-store 70s era plates, bowls, and glasses that reflect, for him, an era when simple, local food was an important part of American culture (admittedly a rather white American culture), much like the food movements today.
Simple and local is the kind of food I like to make, although we also make it a little bit fancy sometimes for our guests. Our menu began with an amuse bouche (that’s fancy-talk for appetizer) of tricolor hedgehog potatoes with a spicy dijon-rosemary dipping sauce, followed by a soup made from sweet green peas, onions, mushrooms, thyme, homemade vegetable stock and coconut milk. Salad was inspired by Terry’s “Any Noche” Romaine and Fruit Salad with Candied Chile Peanuts (rumor has it, we won over a few people who had never even met a beet before!), though a moment’s panic over the amount of romaine we had meant I forgot to take a picture. Our entree was a take on vegan mushroom stroganoff, with campanelle noodles in a sherry-thyme cashew cream sauce with cremini and portobella mushrooms, peas, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh parsley. And last, but certainly not least, dessert: a pool of blueberry-clementine sauce topped with a layered vanilla and chocolate cashew cheesecake and a clementine-meyer lemon shortbread cookie. Whew! I’m full all over again just typing it all out.
I had many compliments for the dessert (specifically the cheesecake) and a few requests for the recipe. My cooking cohost, actually, told me that his face exploded when he tried his first bite (that’s a good thing, by the way). I originally made quite a giant batch of it to serve 24 people, and largely made it up as I went along, so this is my mental scaling-it-down-by-memory recipe. Luckily, you can adjust the proportions to taste before chilling the cake to set up, so feel free to play around with it to your liking. This is incredibly decadent and rich, so make sure you share it with friends
Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake
for the crust:
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2-1 cup pitted dates
for the filling:
2 cups cashews, soaked 8 hours or overnight
juice of 1-2 lemons
juice of 1 clementine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 ounce 100% chocolate (unsweetened), melted
Line a small springform pan (6″) or baking dish (a small loaf pan would do) with plastic wrap or wax paper; this will make it easier to remove the finished cake once set. To make the crust, place the coconut flakes in a food processor and process to break up any clumps. With the processor running, drop the dates into the feed chute until a sticky dough forms; when pinched between your fingers, it should hold together. Press into the bottom of your pan.
To make the filling, drain your cashews and place in a blender or food processor (a high-speed blender will yield the smoothest and creamiest result) along with the lemon juice, clementine juice, vanilla extract, syrup, coconut oil, and salt and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the jar or bowl as needed. If you need to add more liquid, you can add additional citrus juice or filtered water to help the mixture blend more easily. When smooth, you can optionally pour a third of this mixture over the prepared crust and chill it in the freezer while you add chocolate to the remaining filling–this will create a layered cheesecake–or you can add the chocolate to the entire filling mixture if you want a chocolate-only result. Add the cocoa powder and melted chocolate and blend again until incorporated. Pour onto prepared crust and chill in the fridge for a few hours (or about 30-45 minutes in the freezer) until firm.
To serve, remove the cake from the pan and slice with a hot knife (I like to run my knife under hot running water for a few seconds) for a clean cut. Keeps for several days in the refrigerator, or a few months, covered, in the freezer.