A finger food that’s worth the prickers

| 07 Jul 2014 | 02:42

In June, when the last few strawberries are plucked from their stems, the countdown begins until the blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, the holy trinity of berries, are ready for harvest. Since we’re fortunate to live next to an orchard, my daughters and I have spent many hours skipping through the tall grasses, learning to dig deep where the prickly blackberry hides its ripest and sweetest fruit, and to patiently search for the brightly colored red raspberries that fall effortlessly from their hulls. My husband Tom has accompanied me on these excursions, too, abandoning his fear of bees and getting lost in a maze of blueberry bushes. Sometimes I venture out solo, balancing three green baskets in my arms, focused on filling them fuller than usual – enough to eat as is, with extra for a berry tart.

This rustic tart is the quintessential summer dessert – fresh and light with no cooking required. The raw crust is made from finely chopped almonds, dates and just a touch of maple syrup for sweetness. Each individual tart is filled with cashew cream, also sweetened with dates, and then piled high with antioxidant rich berries. If you have a few leaves of basil, consider complimenting the tart with a tangy blackberry basil sauce, a step that does require turning on the cooktop.

From the just-picked berries to the unexpected fragrant basil, this dessert tastes like summer.

Raw berry tart with cashew cream and blackberry basil sauce

Makes 2 individual tarts

2/3 cup almonds

8 dates (4 for the crust,

4 for the cashew cream)

1Tablespoon maple syrup

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

1 cup raw unsalted cashews soaked for 2 hours and rinsed

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup plus two tablespoons water

2 cups blackberries

½ teaspoon lemon juice

3 to 4 whole basil leaves plus more for garnish

1 ½ cups mixed blueberries, raspberries and blackberries

Place almonds, 4 of the dates, maple syrup and coconut oil in a food processor. Pulse until almonds are finely ground and a soft dough like mixture forms. Press into tart pans lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from pans.

While the crusts are refrigerated, make the cream filling by blending cashews, remaining 4 dates, vanilla and water in a blender until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble, spoon cashew cream into tart crust, top with fresh berries and garnish with basil.

To make the sauce, place the blackberries, lemon juice and basil in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes, breaking up berries with a spoon. Remove the basil, then press the blackberry mixture through a fine sieve to remove seeds and pulp (save this for your morning smoothie). Refrigerate until ready to use.