Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Pie in a Nut Crust

I can hardly believe it is THAT season again, but (gulp) I guess it has fallen upon us. The good news is, this usually involves loads of time spent in pajamas, enjoying tasty meals, family traditions and comforting company. I guess I can deal.

And, oh those traditions. Typically packed with sugar, white flour and decadence of all sorts, the dishes surrounding the holidays do not tend to support a very balanced lifestyle. But I have noticed a subtle shift lately. A trend towards updating traditions, an interest in indulging in flavor while still promoting health. Now that is an idea I can truly celebrate.

So I have a few offers of inspiration. Chocolate Cashew TrufflesCocoa Avocado Mousse. No-bake Chocolate Torte. Notice the chocolate theme here- this one is for those who might have always chosen strawberry over chocolate ice cream as a child, or maybe even vanilla (that was me). A bit less chocolate- but just as sweet. Ok, lets go.

Big on pungent spices, roasty toasty squash, decadent nuts and natural sweeteners, you will not miss your sweetened condensed milk or canned puree. As a vegan pie, it finds it's texture through agar agar powder, a sea vegetables that offers a gelatin effect to vegan goods. Pretty cool, right?

Pumpkin Pie in a Nut Crust

Serves 8

1 1/2 cup raw pecans (or almonds)
3 medjool dates, pitted
2-4 tbs. maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt

2 cups roasted pumpkin (or other winter squash, I used Buttercup's as pictured above)
½ cup raw cashews
¾ tsp agar powder (for my VT folk, this can be found in the bulk spice section at City Market)
¼ tsp. salt
2/3 cup boiling water
2 tbs. maple syrup
1 tbs. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
zest of half a lemon

If you have not done so already, cut pumpkin or squash into half, rub with a bit of coconut oil and place cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees until tender when pierced with a knife and beginning to brown, about 30-40 minutes.

Pulse nuts in a food processor until you reach the texture of coarse sand. Add dates and pulse until well combined. Add salt and maple syrup, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture starts to come together and ball up. Press into a lightly greased 9 inch tart pan.

To make the filling, puree roasted pumpkin in a food processor until smooth.

In a blender, process cashews, agar powder and salt to a fine powder. Add boiling water and process on high speed until well blended. Add pumpkin puree, and remaining ingredients, blending until well incorporated. Pour filling into prepared crust and refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. For a thicker texture, refrigerate overnight. 

Relax. Eat Well.