Having a houseful of people for days at a time can be tough to figure out just what to feed everyone. I love quick and easy dishes that don’t require a lot of my time or attention. Once you get all the ingredients into the pan, it’s an easy go. You don’t even need a paella pan, a regular sauté pan or even a large electric skillet works beautifully.
You’ll want to use Spanish rice and Spanish saffron if you can for the best flavor but any short grain rice will do nicely such as an Italian Arborio which can be found in your local supermarket. Sauté a little shallot, preferred, or onion, garlic and infuse some chicken or vegetable stock with the saffron to start. Choose some protein to mix into the rice such as chicken, shrimp, scallops, mussels or chorizo and the dish comes together quickly. Follow the recipe or be creative and enjoy your company for the weekend! Mangia~
Chicken and Shellfish Paella
1 package chicken thighs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shallot, minced or ½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, reserve some for garnish
½ cup white wine
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
4 cups short grain Spanish rice
6 cups stock, warmed with a generous pinch of saffron thread
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1-2 pound mussels
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat oil in a paella or sided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to the chicken and brown skin-side down both sides. Remove from pan and reserve.
In the same pan, make a sofrito by sautéing the shallot, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on a medium heat. Add the wine and cook until it reduces some, about 5 minutes, stir in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains. Add the crushed tomatoes and stock and simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Add chicken, clams, mussels and shrimp, tucking them into the rice. Let the paella simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 10 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the rice is filling the pan add the peas.
Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.
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
Store these tomatoes in a jar covered with olive oil, use a lemon olive oil if desired. For a quick appetizer see below.
1 pound Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon basil, chiffonade
1 teaspoon thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
Preheat the oven to 350∫F. Arrange the tomato halves cut side up and close together on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, and herb. Drizzle over tomatoes and bake until the tomatoes are soft and shriveled but still retain some moisture, about one hour.
Let cool completely. Tomatoes can be stored in a glass jar, cover tomatoes with olive oil, seal and refrigerate.
For sauce: Process in a food processor and warm in a large saute pan.
For a quick appetizer, stuff roasted tomato halves with the following.
Mix together 1 log of goat cheese, 2 Tb. fresh chopped herbs and 1 -2 Tb. of heavy cream.
Mix until goat cheese is soft but not runny.
Spoon or pipe herbed goat cheese onto dried tomato, serve with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.
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
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.
1 small red onion
2 small cucumbers
2 ribs celery
1 small jalapeno, optional
1 roasted red bell pepper
6 medium tomatoes
1 cup French bread, cut into cubes and soaked in a little water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, zested
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ Hass avocado, chopped
Rough chop the vegetables and add to a blender, for a chunkier texture process in a food processor instead of a blender.
Squeeze the water from the French bread cubes and add to a blender along with the vegetables. Add olive oil and vinegar and blend to a puree. Season with salt, pepper (if needed), lemon juice, zest and Worcestershire sauce. Refrigerate over night for best flavor.
To serve, check for seasoning again before pouring into a bowl. Garnish the top of the soup with the chopped avocado.
Goes very well with a nicely toasted slice of cheesy garlic bread.