If you’re looking for refreshing, not-too-sweet, and hits-the-spot desserts, the world of raw cuisine has a lot to offer. (It also has a lot to offer when it comes to incredibly fresh salads, spicy/savory nut dishes that’ll make you forget about meat, innovative noodle recipes involving crunchy kelp strands — those would be the aforementioned [no-cook] noodles — and an amazing array of dehydrated crispy treats. But right now we’re talking about desserts.) There’s something about blending dates and rich nuts such as pecans and walnuts that creates an instant sweet and buttery combination you can use for crusts, crumbled toppings, and as a base for making truffles. And if you want to go a little less raw and lightly toast your nuts before blending them, you can tap into a whole new realm of flavor.
The real key to using dates in the kitchen is to let them soak in warm water for at least 30 minutes to soften. If you manage to get your hands on incredibly fresh and soft dates, so much the better — you can skip the self-softening. Most dates, though, are refrigerated at some point during transit/storage and therefore lose a little of their natural moisture. Lost moisture = harder texture. Rehydrating them solves that. You can speed up the softening process by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak for 10 minutes. (This, of course, would not maintain the spirit of rawness.)
Softer dates not only taste more rich and sweet, they’ll be significantly easier for your blender/processor to chop up. If you want to blend them with a hard nut like a hazelnut or a Brazil nut, you’ll want to soak the nuts, too. But pecans and walnuts are so soft already that they’ll blend beautifully with soft dates.
I used firm pears for this recipe, but you can go with whatever fruit strikes your fancy. Stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and plums are especially good with the dates and pecans; so are pears and apples and berries.
Raw Date & Pecan “Cobblers”
Cut dates in half and remove pits. Place in small bowl and fill with warm water. Let sit for 30 minutes (or longer) to soften. Drain well and place in blender/processor. Add twice as many pecans and a small sprinkling of sea salt. You might also want to add a hearty pinch of cinnamon and a drizzle of vanilla extract. Blend well, scraping sides at least twice, until your dates and nuts look like a cobbler streusel topping.
Cut up a pear into thin slices, dipping each slice into acidulated water (cool water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it) to delay browning. Finger-drop your cobbler topping onto the pears and serve immediately. This makes a perfect dessert, snack, or even breakfast.
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