Welcome to the Enchilada Library! What is it, you ask? It’s a quasi food blog, but more of an indulgent space to pour thoughts with an emphasis on food porn (aka tasty looking food pictures, mom) and things that make me feel good. It looks like a food blog, but tastes more like a good conversation over a steaming cup of almond milk chai.
The more I cook, the more I realize the importance of food not just as a means for sustenance, but as a medium for communication and gathering. I like to think of food in four basic components, each one integral in forming what I consider truly “whole” food: the recipe, the ingredients, the preparation, and the enjoyment. Recipes are the soul of the food, if you will; they are that something extra that makes food more than just the sum of its parts.
Now allow me to contradict myself; I hate recipes. Well, really I just hate measuring things – especially flour. Yet I can’t help but feel as though recipes are restrictive and often times forced. So to sooth my neuroses, I’ll stretch the definition of ‘recipe’: a recipe can be any intention one has before cooking, whether that looks like a page from the “Joy of Cooking” or a craving for peanut butter cookies. A recipe is the knowledge that, “this is going to be good,” and the anticipation that follows. That said, please take all recipes that I post here as suggestions and inspiration rather than strict formats; chances are I didn’t follow them either.
The structure of the food, of course, is the ingredients themselves. The topic of ‘what I choose to eat’ tends to splinter my mind into a thousand tiny fiber thoughts, “who grew this bell pepper?”, “how far did it travel to get here?”, “where are bell peppers from originally, and am I adapted to eat them?” , “what the hell is the point of green bell peppers, anyways?” and so on. They are all worthy questions to be certain, but for fear of dogmatic ranting I’ll stop there for now. For those of us that could spend bewildered hours in the grocery store turning over labels, let’s simplify; as Micheal Pollan, one of my favorite food authors puts it, ” eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” For me, that means eating seasonal, local produce as much as possible and letting the quality of the ingredients be the focal point of the dishes which I prepare. Simplicity does not, however, negate creativity. To the contrary, the more I narrow my focus of what I want to eat, the more the spectrum of possibilities seems to broaden. That’s how we end up with things like raw vegan cheesecake – who knew that cashews, coconut oil, honey, lemon, and vanilla could make a rich and creamy filling that rival the “real” thing?
You know that feeling you get when you have a really great idea? The welling up of excitement in your chest that rises to your brain until the thought nearly jumps out of your imagination? Growing up, I never understood why I couldn’t paint my whole room blue the instant I dreamed it up. And I still don’t. That’s why cooking is so wonderful; it gratifies the impulsive and impatient creativity that wants to start something, and finish it, now. It also satisfies the more thoughtful side of me that wants to linger and enjoy the process, to “stop and smell the caramelizing onions.”
The juiciest part of the “whole” food is the pleasure of enjoying the final product, and food is always better when shared. What’s the fun in telling a really great joke if no one is around to laugh at it? And what’s the point in taking five hours to make a raw vegan cheesecake if it wasn’t to be devoured by six starving nineteen-year-old boys before they even had the chance to ask what it was?
Take the time to crave something, give your impatience something to savor, take pictures of your food, and invite some friends over to polish it off.
Raw Vegan Neopolitan Cheesecake – recipe adapted from choosingraw.com
For the crust
For the filling
- 1 1/2 cup raw almonds
- Pinch sea salt
- 2 cups pitted medjool dates
- 3 cups cashews
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2/3 cups melted coconut oil
- 1 vanilla bean, cut in half, seeds scraped out for use, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cup agave nectar
- 1 cup strawberries ( I used frozen raspberries in this version)
- 2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
- Soak the cashews in water overnight or for three or more hours. Drain them of water and set aside.
- Place the almonds and sea salt in a food processor and grind roughly. Add the dates and process until the mixture is uniform and sticks together when you squeeze a bit in the palm your hand. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9” springform pan.
- Use a high speed blender or food processor (high speed blender is preferable) to blend all filling ingredients except for the strawberries thoroughly, until silky smooth. If you’re working with a processor, you may need to stop often to scrape it down.
- Divide the filling into thirds (as you can tell by the photo I am not very keen at division) Pour one third (the vanilla layer) of the filling mixture into the springform pan. Use an inverted spatula to smooth it over. Transfer to the fridge for thirty minutes or more to let this layer set.
- Blend the strawberries into one third of the reserved filling mixture. Set it aside in a bowl while the first layer is setting. Blend the remaining third with the melted baking chocolate. Once the first layer has been in the fridge for thirty minutes or longer, spread the strawberry layer over the plain vanilla layer. Again let the strawberry layer set and then add the chocolate filling on top. Transfer whole cheesecake to the freezer for 3 hours then store in the fridge. Slice and enjoy!