Cooking Organic Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

Carrie Clough has a noticeable love affair with organic ingredients. But to better understand this romance, it’s necessary to step back into the 13th century to an old farmhouse in a small Welsh village. What once had been the home of farmers has now become an award-winning restaurant where Carrie sharpened her culinary capabilities and learned the intricacies of healthy cooking from a certified nutritionist. Carrie’s unbridled enthusiasm for seasonal ingredients is obvious. “I specialize in organic recipes and using seasonal ingredients particular to our area,” says Carrie, “such as my chocolate truffle recipe, which uses avocados instead of butter and cream.”

Growing up in Montecito, Carrie attended Cold Spring School and Santa Barbara High and then went on to work for Alice Waters’s restaurant, Chez Panisse, in the Bay Area, followed by her stint as a pastry chef for Sage and Onion.

Two months ago, she opened her own business, Manzanita, as a personal chef. “I’m passionate about helping people understand the nutritional value of organic food,” she says.

She says she loves to experiment with new recipes and most of the ingredients she uses come from Lazy Acres, the Farmer’s Market and the Isla Vista Food Cooperative.

For more info on Carrie call 450-6524 or visit www.manzanitachef.com.

Here she offers a seasonal steamed persimmon cake with tangy balsamic sauce:

Steamed Persimmon Cakes w/ Mandarin-Balsamic Sauce

This is a rich fall dessert with two fruits that come into season in November – persimmons and Satsuma mandarins. Satsumas are nice and tart so if you need to substitute orange juice, make sure it is not too sweet. The tartness of the sauce cuts through the richness of the cake, which has an almost chocolate-y appearance from the ripe persimmons.

For the Cakes

1/3 cup organic unsalted butter, melted

3 very ripe Hachiya persimmons

2 free-range eggs, beaten

1 cup organic sugar

½ cup organic milk or soymilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup organic all-purpose flour

½ tsp sea salt

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Sauce

2 cups fresh-squeezed Satsuma mandarin juice (about 12-15 medium Satsumas)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

½ cup organic sugar

1/8 tsp all-spice

Garnish (optional)

Toasted walnuts, chopped

Crème fraiche or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 6 small deep ramekins with some of the melted butter. (You can also use one large baking dish.) Place them in a deep pan and set aside.

Slice open the persimmons, scoop out flesh with a spoon and purée in a food processor until smooth. Add to a mixing bowl with the remaining melted butter, eggs, sugar milk and vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together flour, sea salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased ramekins and fill until about three-quarters full.

Add boiling water to the pan holding the ramekins (removing two if necessary to avoid spilling water into batter). Fill until it reaches the halfway mark on the ramekins.

Tent with foil and cut a few slits in the foil to release excess steam.

Place pan carefully in oven and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

Prepare sauce by adding Satsuma juice, balsamic vinegar, sugar and all-spice to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil then lower to a simmer until reduced, about 15-20 minutes.

When ready to serve, invert ramekins onto plates. The cakes should come out very easily. Make a small 1-inch hole in the tops of the cakes (with a chopstick, for example) and spoon a little sauce over the tops of the cakes.

Garnish with chopped toasted walnuts and a dollop of fresh whipped cream or crème fraiche.

– This article was written with special thanks to Peter Phillips.

(If you know a cook who deserves attention, please e-mail your suggestions to news@montecitojournal.net)