SOURCE: Real Food Daily

November 16, 2006 13:20 ET

Ann Gentry of Real Food Daily Creates New Persimmon Recipes

LOS ANGELES, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- November 16, 2006 --Ann Gentry, leading chef, owner of the Real Food Daily Restaurants and author of "The Real Food Daily Cookbook" has developed several new recipes featuring persimmons.

"Persimmons are delicious and unique and they're only in season for a short time (from mid-October to December), so it's great to use these wonderful fruits when they are in peak season," explained Gentry, who is the executive chef of "Vegetarian Times" and a columnist for "Junior: The World's Finest Parenting Magazine."

Persimmons resemble tomatoes in appearance, but they taste similar to a plum, but with a more rich and spicy flavor. Native to China, persimmons were introduced to the US in the mid-1800s. Although there are over 2,000 varieties, the Fuyu and Hachiya are the most popular, with the Hachiya being featured in Gentry's recipes such as this Chocolate Persimmon Cake recipe:

Chocolate Persimmon Cake
Recipe created by Ann Gentry -- Real Food Daily (copyright 2006)
Serves 8 to 10

CAKE
3 cups barley flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup instant decaffeinated coffee powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups plain soymilk
2 cups fresh persimmon puree
 (about 2 persimmons)
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FROSTING
2 (12.3-ounce) containers vacuum-packed
 extra-firm silken tofu
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup agave-nectar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

INSIDE LAYER
1 cup fresh persimmon puree
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly oil two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Lightly oil the paper. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Remove skin from persimmons and whisk well the persimmon flesh to smooth. Using an electric mixer, beat the persimmon puree, soy-milk, maple syrup, oil, vinegar, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Mix in the flour mixture just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean and the cakes begin to pull away from the sides of the pans. Cool in the pans on cooling racks for 20 minutes. Turn out the cakes onto the racks and cool completely.

To make the frosting: Blend the tofu, cocoa powder, agave-nectar, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Set aside. Stir the chocolate chips in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until the chocolate melts. With the machine running, blend the melted chocolate into the tofu mixture. Transfer the frosting to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, or just until firm enough to spread.

To frost the cake: Spread a thin layer of chocolate frosting on the bottom cake, then spread a thick layer of persimmon puree. Place second cake layer and frost sides and top with chocolate frosting.

Gentry says that the persimmons she uses at her Real Food Daily restaurants are actually from the persimmon trees grown in her friend's backyard. Gentry and her staff pick the fruits themselves, bring them back to wash and store until ripened, and then use them in the vegan desserts for which Gentry is famous.

The secret to enjoying persimmons, according to Gentry, is to eat them when they are at their perfect stage of ripening, which varies depending on the type of persimmon. Fuyus and Sharons are ready to be eaten when they are slightly soft to the touch. Hachiyas must be almost mushy before they are ready to eat. If you bite into an underripe persimmon, you will know it. Your mouth will pucker due to the astringent flavor. You can eat a very soft persimmon by simply cutting it open and scraping the pulp from the skin with a spoon.

"If you haven't had persimmons before, try them," Gentry suggested. "Discovering new tastes and textures is one of the simple pleasures in life."

Gentry opened her first Real Food Daily restaurant in 1993 in Santa Monica, Calif., serving 100 percent vegan fare made with organic ingredients and local produce. Following the success of her first restaurant, she opened a second location in West Hollywood, Calif. After receiving ongoing requests for her recipes, Gentry was inspired to write her first cookbook, "The Real Food Daily Cookbook" (Ten Speed Press, October 1, 2005; $24.95, ISBN: 1-58008-618-7). The cookbook includes 150 of the restaurants' most popular dishes, including such favorites as the Yin Yang Salad with Peanut Sauce, Butternut Squash Soup and Lentil-Walnut Pâté.

Fans of the Real Food Daily restaurants include several celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Kirsten Dunst, Jeremy Piven, Adrien Brody, Scarlett Johansson, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Queen Latifah, Tobey Maguire, and Seal. Gentry has appeared as a guest chef at Canyon Ranch, Pritikin Longevity Center, Robert Mondavi Wine Center, LA Times Festival of Books, Central Market in Texas and the Environmental Media Awards.

For more information on Ann Gentry, the Real Food Daily Restaurants or "The Real Food Daily Cookbook," visit www.realfood.com.

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