Cooking the Blog: Paella!

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I love making my vegan paella. While paella has specific origins, it is not uncommon to find vegan versions. In fact, it’s called Pealla de Verduras and it can really be anything.

My recipe has evolved over time to suit my cooking style and the ingredients I always have on hand. For me, this is a very easy, weeknight meal that comes together pretty quickly. We love it so much that we pretty much polish it off in one sitting. If there are leftovers, it is great reheated.

This is pretty close to my original recipe sans lima beans because I never have them around. I also don’t bother with vegetable stock anymore because this dish is so flavorful. The key is saffron – that elusive, fragrant spice that gives this paella that mysterious and delicious flavor. And speaking of flavor, I use tomato paste because it’s concentrated and I always have it on hand. I also love adding artichoke hearts because they add a fun texture. And for garnish, I like to decorate the dish with roasted asparagus spears for a cute design and presentation. But that’s optional!

I make my paella in my Buffet Casserole Le Creuset Pan because it has a large, shallow surface area, but you can make it in a big skillet with sides if you don’t have one. And don’t worry, if the paella gets a little crispy on the bottom of the pan, that’s cool. That layer of toasted rice is called socarrat in Spain. This is considered a delicacy among Spaniards and is essential to a good paella.

1/2 onion
1 glove of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Basmati rice
Pinch saffron strands
Paprika, a shake or two
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow or a combo of all three adding up to 1 pepper)
2 cups water (or 1 cup vegetable stock and 1 cup water)
1 cup frozen peas
1 can artichoke hearts
5 asparagus spears
Olive oil, for brushing the asparagus
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Lemon slices, for garnish and zing

Preheat the oven to 400. Break the ends off the asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough skins. Brush lightly with olive oil. Set aside until the water goes into the paella.

Dice the onion and peppers.

Sauté the onions in olive oil on medium heat. When they are translucent, press the garlic over the pan and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil.

If you have a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron and then use a tablespoon of water to pour it out into the rice.

Otherwise, pinch the saffron strands between your fingers to break them up and then drop them into the rice. Sprinkle with paprika and stir around.

Before you go on to the next step, place the asparagus on a sheet tray and roast for 15 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, stir around, and let it cook out for a minute. Add peppers and peas. Pour the water into the pan. Cut off any tough pieces of the artichoke hearts and gently place them into the rice.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.

Right before you serve, squeeze 1/2 of the lemon over the paella and fluff the rice. Decorate with asparagus and a lemon slice. Serve with more lemon wedges for extra zing. Enjoy!

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