Oh ma’ goodness. I don’t really know where to begin with this recipe.
Actually, yes I do. It begins with the photograph you see below. This vacuum-packed pile of fresh dates may not be the most appetizing image ever but there’s a story behind them. My dad was recently teaching a commercial real estate appraisal class in Saudi Arabia. He was there for a two week stretch, teaching the same class twice to two different groups of students.
It seemed like a pretty amazing experience and I can safely say one of his favorite parts of the trip was the food. He raved about every meal saying each one was better than the next. And apparently, Saudi Arabia is known for their dates and is one of the largest produces in the world for them. My dad learned quite a lot about them while there and couldn’t stop telling me how incredible they were.
And then he sent me a giant package and I got to experience the amazingness of these dates firsthand. If you’ve ever eaten a medjool date before they are identical in flavor. They have a very rich, caramel-like flavor and are super sweet when eaten straight up.
So why does it look like these are packed in syrup? I asked my dad the same question. He told me that the dates are picked when ripe and placed in some kind of extremely large container which is then weighted down from the top for many weeks. Adding pressure on top of the dates makes them start to ooze this syrupy substance that is like straight up caramel. Then they’re cut into blocks and sealed.
I knew I had to incorporate these beauties into some sort of recipe and in talking to my dad he said one day he ate something called a date slushy. I don’t know the exact ingredients but it immediately made me think of creating a date-sweetened milkshake with a cashew cream base.
Vanilla milkshakes are pretty much my favorite of all time (boring, I know), so it only seemed right to add vanilla beans to the mix.
I actually made this recipe and photographed it twice. The first time I poured it straight from the blender into the glasses. While it tasted like an absolute dream I wanted it thicker with more of a milkshake consistency. It just looked kind of soupy in the glass.
The next day I had an idea.
Spin the mixture in an ice cream maker!
Our kitchen is kind of in shambles right now as we install new shelving on the other side of this photo. I will share the details soon!
Pure milkshake bliss.
While I’m not exactly sure of the type of dates I used they tasted just like medjool dates, so I recommend those for this recipe. The dates naturally sweeten this milkshake while helping add a thick texture along with the cashews. The vanilla compliments the caramel notes from the dates and mild, cashew flavor incredibly well.
Feel free to add some spice to this with a little cinnamon or ginger.
Vanilla Bean Cashew Cream Milkshakes
gluten-free, vegan // yields 2-3 servings (~28oz)
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 12-14 medjool dates, pitted
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1-2 cups water or nut milk
- 3 cups ice
- pinch of salt
Prepare you ice cream maker according to manufacturers instructions.
Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for at least 4 hours or overnight on the counter. Drain the water. Soak the pitted dates for 1 hour in warm water. Trim the ends from the vanilla beans, cut lengthwise, and scrape the seeds out (about 1/4 teaspoon of seeds).
Place 1 cup water or milk in your blender. Add the cashews, dates, ice, and pinch of salt. Turn on and blend until smooth, 30 seconds – 1 minute. Add more water/milk as needed but keep the mixture as thick as possible. Add more dates for sweetness if desired.
(optional) Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Scrape all contents from the blender and press the mixture through the strainer with the back of a spoon to remove any larger bits of cashews and dates.
Pour back into the blender and add the vanilla beans. Blend again.
Pour into your ice cream maker and let spin for 8-10 minutes (or when desired texture is reached) for a more milkshake-like consistency. Scoop into glasses and serve.
Best consumed immediately after making. I don’t recommend freezing this mixture as it will ice over.
Feel free to skip the ice cream maker option and eat right from the blender. Still delicious, just not quite as thick. Or, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, place the mixture into a container in your freezer. Stir every 8-10 minutes for 30 minutes – 1 hour, until thickened to milkshake consistency.
I have no more words for today, so I think I’ll just hand over a spoon.