At Limerock Orchards in Paso Robles, California, a mother-daughter duo passionately nurtures an organic walnut orchard dating back to the 1960s. Deanne Gonzales and her daughter, Olivia, were born with farming in their blood and don’t ever plan to abandon their deep roots. Deanne’s father was a farmer on the large coastal Oxnard Plain of southwest Ventura County, California for 60 years. Farm girls through and through, Deanne and Olivia can distinguish a rootstock from a cultivar like a coder can separate functions from conditional statements. Limerock Orchards’ walnut rootstock is a hybrid of the California black walnut and the English walnut, aptly named “Paradox” for its paradoxical vigor and yield. Walnuts are considered a superfood with the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids of any nut. So if you’re not a fatty fish lover, walnuts and their oil are a great way to get more of this heart-healthy fatty acid into your diet. The Limerock Orchards walnut butter is sweet and moist. Delicious spread on morning toast. I take mine straight by the spoonful. Try this no-frills recipe for quick hors d’oeuvres on a casual summer’s eve with friends.
Dry farming is the practice of farming without irrigation and relies solely on rainfall. Limerock Orchards sits in a unique microclimate of the foothills west of Paso Robles where the average annual rainfall was once 39 inches, but now receives closer to 14-15 inches per year. Deanne and Olivia recall the early stress on their trees caused by the drought years. However, the secret of dry farming is the tree’s ability to adapt and develop a deeper root system making it more resilient than a shallow-rooted, irrigation-dependent one. The walnut trees of Limerock Orchards are a fitting metaphor for times of stress in anyone’s life. Trees with deep roots do not sway.
The personal paradox I discovered with Limerock Orchard walnuts is the lack of a bitter taste common with most walnuts. The ‘Paradox’ rootstock provides a hardy parent for Limerock’s grafted varieties like the French ‘Franquette’ and the English ‘Hartley.’ These older varieties possess a higher oil content than the larger modern varieties. Subsequently, the flavor is freshly unfamiliar and soft on the tongue. I use Limerock Orchards walnut oil in all my baked goods to add a subtle, smooth nutty flavor.
À la bonne franquette is a french saying for “simple and informal, without any fuss” and the phrase is used to describe a casual gathering or simple meal. Try a little franquette in your life and if puff pastry is too fussy for your palate, pas de probléme. Substitute a sliced rustic baguette lightly toasted in the oven. À votre santé!
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- 1 small round of brie cheese or sharp white cheddar (6 oz)
- Limerock Orchards dry farmed walnut butter
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (or thin slices of oven-toasted fresh baguette)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Sweet or sour cherry preserves
- Mash together walnut butter and preserves in equal parts or to taste.
- Roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14x12 inch rectangle.
- Cut out 40 small rounds with a floured cookie cutter or simply cut in long parallel lines about 2 inches apart forming small squares.
- Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush tops of rounds or squares with egg wash.
- Bake in the middle of oven until golden and puffed, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cool the pastry puffs (leave oven on.)
- While pastries are still warm, gently pull each one apart to make separate tops and bottoms.
- Place a small slice of cheese on one puff layer, top with a dab of cherry-walnut compote and cover with second puff pastry layer.
- Bake in oven on same parchment-lined baking sheet until cheese begins to melt, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Serve immediately.