Place pecans on a baking sheet and toast them just until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Be very careful to stir them every 1-2 minutes so they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let cool.
Put toasted pecans and dates in a food processor and blend until mixture clumps and forms a coarse, moist, meal-like texture.
Grease a 10-inch ceramic tart dish (or deep pie plate) heavily with butter. Set aside half of the pecan date mixture and press the other half into the bottom of the dish, spreading it up the sides of the plate or pan to form a full pie crust.
Put the maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, and then whisk in the bourbon, lemon juice, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla. Gradually whisk the hot maple syrup mixture into the egg mixture. Stir in the remaining 2 cups pecan date mixture and mix well.
Pour the pecan mixture into the piecrust. Arrange whole pecan halves on top of the pie in a circular pattern (optional).
Transfer the pie to a baking sheet, and bake until the top and edges of the pie are golden brown and the center of the pie is jiggly but no longer liquid and a knife poked in the center comes out clean; 30 to 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly.
While I can’t, in all good consciousness, tout many health benefits to this naturally sweet and sticky pie plate of deliciousness, I can tell you that it was a heck of a lot of fun turning an oober sweet genetically modified corn syrup of a crust into a naturally sweet, gluten free, nut pie. And it turned out absolutely amazing! It was definitely a hit with the family. And while it is a much healthier version, it’s still guaranteed to tickle your dopamine center and send you on the blood sugar ride of your life! So eat with caution… but please, fully enjoy yourself!!