The arrival of summertime is a good thing for many reasons, but one downside is that using the oven, even for a few minutes, between the months of June and September turns our apartment into a sauna. When I moved to Boston from the Deep South, I thought I was leaving sweltering weather behind, but I soon found out that the benefit of lower temperatures is completely cancelled out by the total lack of residential air conditioning. Fans and window units keep our living space comfortable most of the time, but as soon as that oven goes on, forget it.
This poses a problem for my baking habit. No matter how much I want to bake cookies in the summertime, the hours of sweating honestly aren’t worth it. Of course, I never really remember that it’s not worth it until I’m too far into the process to back out.
This strawberry pie is an absolute godsend for hot-weather dessert cravings. It requires no baking or cooking of any kind, it comes together really quickly, and—bonus!—it’s totally healthy! There are no added fats or sweeteners, and it’s almost entirely vegan (the chocolate chunks are the exception).
There is one catch in this otherwise perfect deal: the pie will only be as good as your strawberries, so I can really only recommend making this with local, in-season strawberries. That might sound like a food-snobby thing to say, but think about the last strawberry you had from the grocery store. I’m willing to bet that it had an almost-crunchy texture and a white center, and didn’t taste like much of anything. If you top a pie with those, you won’t be nearly as satisfied with the end result. You really need a strawberry that’s soft, juicy, and ruby red throughout.
The crust is the simplest thing to make. All you do is take two cups of raw pecans, blend them down into a coarse meal, and then add a few pulverized dates. To be honest, dates kind of gross me out, but the crust really needs them. They’re sticky enough to bind the pecan crumbs, and sweet enough to make the whole business taste sort of like a graham cracker crust. Also, a note on the pecans: I used pecans that came from my grandmother’s yard, which she hand-shelled and mailed up to me last fall. She sent so many that I still have enough to last me a few more months. Thank you, Grandmother!
The filling isn’t exactly rocket science, either. After you’ve layered about four cups’ worth of strawberry slices on top of the crust, you blend one more cup of berries into puree, blend more dates and some lemon juice into the puree, and spread that on top of the slices. And then—be still my heart—you scatter the whole thing with chunks of dark chocolate. For this pie, I really splurged on the chocolate and sprang for Valrhona. Sweet goodness… it’s just as delicious as they say.
The finished product is a dream come true. The crust is crunchy, crumbly, and nutty; the topping tastes like pure summer; and the chocolate chunks are the perfect complement to both. Wanna know one of my very favorite things about this pie? It’s totally acceptable to eat it for breakfast… if there’s any leftover in the morning.
Strawberry Chocolate No-Bake Pie
from Bittersweet Notes
2 C raw pecans
3/4 C to 1 C pitted dates
1/4 t salt
canola oil cooking spray (to coat pan)
5 C ripe strawberries
5 pitted dates
2 t fresh lemon juice
dark chocolate chunks (as many as you want)
Prepare an 8- or 9-inch circular tart or springform pan by very lightly coating with canola oil cooking spray.
Grind nuts in a food processor or blender until they resemble a coarse meal. Add dates and salt into nut mixture, then process or blend until thoroughly combined.
Pour mixture into pan, then press into the shape of a crust. Set pan aside.
Soak 5 pitted dates in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain water and gently dry dates on towel. Separate 1 cup of whole strawberries and set aside.
Slice 4 cups of strawberries, then arrange sliced strawberries on the crust. Set pan aside.
Place the reserved 1 C of whole strawberries in a food processor or blender and process until pureed. Add soaked pitted dates and 2 t lemon juice to strawberry puree and process until smooth. Pour strawberry puree mixture over the sliced strawberries in the pan.
Prepare chocolate chunks and sprinkle over top of pie.
Refrigerate entire pie for 1 hour before serving.