April in the Garden
Chef Debbi will be presenting a seminar, ‘Al Fresco Mothers Day Brunch’, at the South Coast Plaza Garden Show on Sat. April 25th, 12:30 in the Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams home store. Chef will be talking about spring vegetables, edible flowers and demonstrating a ‘Microgreen and Baby Lettuce Salad with Spring Vegetables, Edible Flowers and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette’ and serving that along with a Seasonal Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart
The seminar is free but seating is limited.
What To Do in The Spring Garden in So. California
You can get another crop of spring vegetables, peas (in cooler climates), asparagus, spinach, lettuce and last chance to plant artichokes from seedlings.
Plant from certified organic ‘seeds’.
Spring and Early Summer
Plant early season, cherry, heirloom & indeterminate varieties
Choose plants that are stocky with a thick stem, about the size of a pencil. Don’t choose plants with flowers or fruit on it, your tomato plant needs to develop strong, deep roots before starting to flower. Remove lower leaves and plant the seedling up to the first two set of leaves. All those furry little things on the side of the stem will turn into roots for you.
Companion plants to tomatoes are carrots, basil, lettuce and parsley.
All kinds of beans! Bush, pole and dried beans for winter soups and stews.
Companion plants to beans are corn, potatoes, radish and carrots.
Plant pole beans at the base of the corn and squash around the beans.
Beets, Turnips, Carrots and Radish
All grow underground in loose soil and can be grown in less sunny areas of the garden.
All kinds of peppers can go in the ground, planting companions are spinach, basil and tomatoes.
Early squash can be planted but hold off on pumpkins until June if you want them for the fall holidays.
Cilantro, Basil, Thyme, Dill, Fennel, Chives and most herbs will do well now.
Watch out for runners and re-seeders such as mint, oregano, borage, lemon verbena and pineapple sage for a few.
Now is a good time to amend your soil for the long summer growing season.
I met Barbara and Bill Spencer sometime around 2004 when I was scouting heirloom tomatoes from Paso Robles farmers market. Barbara invited me out to the farm and so my husband and I trekked out there one morning. We didn’t want to disrupt their farm work but yet they stopped working when we arrived and gave us a thorough tour of their lovely little farm. It is such a peaceful unique farm you just want to lie down in the grass and daydream watching the clouds pass by. But a farmers work is never done and we wanted to get out of their way so they could return to their chores. Absolutely not! They insisted we stay for lunch and Bill pulled a beautiful roasted mutton out of the refrigerator and a loaf of freshly baked bread, yes Bill makes his own bread! Barbara foraged for greens and veggies for a salad and whipped up a delicious little dressing. We ate and chatted about life and the farm for what seemed like all afternoon and with sadness had to depart and leave this magical place.
I host several tours to Cambria and Paso Robles and I always finish the tour on Sunday with a day at Windrose Farm with Bill and Barbara. No-one ever wants to leave! I wish all of you could join us for a weekend discovering food and wine and a central coast lifestyle but if you can’t, I’d like to share a piece of Windrose Farm with you. Following is an excerpt from their website and a glimpse inside the magic of Windrose Farm. Join us Oct 24th – Oct 26th for a trip that includes a visit to Windrose.
Windrose is a small family farm located east of Paso Robles and tucked into a unique valley of 50 acres, 12 are in vegetable rotations, 6 are in apples and stone fruit and 5 are sheep pasture. The rest is habitat – full of animal, bird and insect life.
Owners Bill and Barbara Spencer have been certified organic from August 1999 to 2009, but are currently transitioning to biodynamic! The farm has been “clean” for twenty years; since its purchase in 1990.
In 1993 Windrose began going to the Farmer’s Markets with produce from their first small market garden. Having already discovered the enjoyment of growing many “specialty” varieties of vegetables – most particularly heirloom tomatoes and potatoes, they also found they loved selling to wonderful restaurants as well as to their friends at Farmer’s Markets.
In addition to tomatoes and potatoes, Windrose grows onions, garlic, green and dry beans, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, carrots, turnips, beets, cucumbers, melons and many varieties of greens. They also have apples and stone fruit. Their little valley is a unique micro-climate that is good for the diverse crops of lilacs, apples, super-sweet onions and melons.
Bill & Barbara state that “The longer we farm, the more enthralled we are with the old traditional seeds and plants. We strive as much as possible to use open-pollinated or heirloom varieties and have begun our own seed-saving program. Every day brings us more knowledge and a stronger belief in the principals and practices of sustainable organic farming. It is complex and labor-intensive – but the burst of life in the soil and the habitat of our little valley is astonishing.”
Barbara and Bill have often sought to better explain their philosophy about the environment that is Windrose Farm.
In this years Biodynamic calendar we found the following by Patrick Holden, a soils expert, long time organic farmer and advocate of the ‘biodynamic‘ philosophy:
“We subscribe to Rudolph Steiner’s* philosophy that the farm should be seen as an ecosystem in its own right, and that our striving should be to move towards building and maintaining plant and animal communities, which are ecologically suited to its unique combination of soil, climate and place.”
Barbara and Bill cherish their time at the ecosystem that is Windrose and sharing the bounty that it produces.
* Rudolph Steiner founder and creator of the “Biodynamic philosophy and principles.
Visit Windrose Farm at www.windrosefarm.org
Join Chef Debbi and The Debettes for our
Fall Farm, Food and Wine Tour
of California’s Central Coast
for more info click here
Central Coast Fall Harvest Adventure
October 24th – 26th, 2014
Join Chef Debbi on another Farm, Food and Wine Adventure
Stay at the lovely Cambria Pines Lodge
Join Chef Debbi & her Debettes for a dinner party/wine tasting Friday evening
Be escorted by The Wine Wrangler experts around Paso Robles to visit:
Pasolivo Olive Ranch for a tasting of local olive oils & more
Rangeland Ranch and Winery
Take a hay ride around the sustainable ranch and vineyards with owner Laird Foshay
Wine Tasting and Vineyard lunch with Lisa & Laird on the patio with a panaromic view of the hills
Wine tasting on Vineyard Dr. as we make our way back to Jack Creek Pumpkin Farm where you can pick up holiday pumpkins, gourds and more
Sat. evening explore local cuisine on your own and rest up for Sun!
Sunday we’ll caravan to Windrose Farm for a biodynamic tour of Bill & Barbara Spencers mystical farm
Chef Debbi, Barbara & Debettes will create a farm feast for you with what we’ve found on the farm that day
In season usually we can find luscious heirloom tomatoes, shishito peppers, potatoes, all kinds of greens and it’s apple season!
Don’t miss this limited seating tour. Drive yourself up the coast and meet Chef Debbi & her crew for a Farm, Food and Wine Adventure!
$675.00, per person, double occupancy
I also have a special suite for a party of 5-6 ppl, call for a special rate
All rooms have fireplaces, hot buffet breakfast is included
$650.00 total fee if paid in full by Sept 1. Payment plan available, contact Chef Debbi @ info@debskitchen for billing
There will be a 2.9% fee added (listed as a ‘tax’) but it is a credit card fee that goes to Paypal
Lavender Shortbread Cookies
Photo from Central Coast Lavender
Makes about 50 cookies
1 tablespoon dried lavender blossoms
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons heavy cream (or 1 egg whisked with a little water)
extra lavender sugar for sprinkling on top
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Set aside.
In a small spice grinder (I use my cleaned out coffee grinder) to grind up 1 tablespoon lavender and 1 tablespoon sugar. Grind it up! You could also use a mortar and pestle to grind the sugar and lavender together.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment add butter, ground lavender mixture, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cream on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the flour, mix on low speed until dough comes together. The dough will be crumbly, then begin to form when it continues to mix. Dump dough mixture out onto a clean surface and form into a ball with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Divide refrigerated dough into quarters. On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut cookies, or use a pizza cutter to slice cookies into squares. Use a fork to prick cookies. Brush very lightly with cream or egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Refrigerate cookies while oven preheats.
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350° .
When oven is preheated, bake cookies for 8 to 11 minutes, until just browned around the edges. Remove from oven. Allow cooling on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes then removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 4 days.
adapted slightly from Party Like a Culinista
I have a love affair with California avocados, ever since I was a little girl, I could never get enough. My grandmother used to feed us mashed avocado on toast with a little salt and pepper every day during the season and it is still my favorite for breakfast! Or even a little snack.
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit an avocado farm, but not just any farm, Holtz Family Avocado Farm in Escondido. Their forest of avocado trees is just so beautiful; it’s so inspiring just to walk the grove. Growing these avocados is a three-year process from budding the growth to blooming and then a year for the fruit to ripen. You can see the baby avocados, which will be ready for next years harvest, hanging on a tree right next to the avocados that are being picked for this years harvest. Avocados like to grow up in the light and when the trees get too tall it can be dangerous picking but the farm hands are experienced and work with the family year round.
The Holtz family grow mostly Hass avocados but some Reeds as well and they have a unique way of getting great avocados directly to you, they pick them at the perfect time and then ship them to you in their specially designed boxes. All avocados are hand picked and shipped the same day; the ripening comes on your end with easy step by step instructions that are enclosed in your ‘Hand Grown in California’ avocado box. Simple, easy and delicious California avocados can be ordered from their website, California Avocados Direct.
And for inspiration on recipes, stories and life on an avocado ranch visit Mimi’s blog at Mimi Avocado; tell her Chef Debbi sent you!
Use California avocados in Chef Debbi’s Gazpacho recipe! Gazpacho recipe here.