Sunday, August 21, 2011

Vegetable Paella

This is a dish for when you have a little extra time to spend preparing dinner. It is not difficult, but it has several steps, as all paellas do. Traditional paellas are cooked over an open fire of aromatic pine and orange branches, which imparts a smoky undertone. We are using smoked paprika to suggest the fire roasted flavor. Traditional paellas are also a dish cooked by men.
The foundation for this recipe comes from Fresh and Fast Vegetarian: recipes that make a meal, by Marie Simmons.We took liberties with the vegetables and substituted green peas and green olives for green beans. On our second attempt, the amount of water added to the rice was reduced significantly. Those amounts are reflected in this recipe. The goal is to attain a crispy bottom, so it is important that the rice maintains its integrity. It cannot be wet or mushy. You will want to monitor this for yourself and adjust the amount of water you use so that you can get that crispy bottom.

5 cups water
5 T olive oil
6 Oz mini bell peppers (about 8) or 1 large red bell pepper cue into 2 x ½ inch pieces
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded (about 2 ½ cups)
2 t chopped fresh thyme
2 t coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ c cauliflower florets, thick stems removed
8 oz green peas
1/4-1/2 cup green olives, chopped in half
2 cups chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 ½ t smoked paprika
1 ½ cups medium grain white rice
Lemon wedges for garnish
Fresh thyme or parsley sprigs for garnish


1.       In a small saucepan, bring 5 cups water to a boil and keep hot over low heat
2.       Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the peppers are blistered and browned and the mushrooms are golden. 6 – 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 t of the chopped thyme, ¼ t of the salt and a grinding of black pepper. Remove the peppers and mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3.       Add 1 T of oil and the cauliflower and peas to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium high heat until the cauliflower begins to brown and is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the olives during the last minute. Add the remaining 1 t chopped thyme, ¼ t of salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, keeping them separate from the peppers and mushrooms
4.       Add the remaining 2 T oil to the hot pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring over medium-low heat until softened and golden, 5 – 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and boil over high heat, stirring, until all the tomato juice evaporates. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the paprika. Add the rice and stir until coated with the tomato mixture, about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of the hot water and the remaining 1 ½ t salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, without stirring until most of the liquid is evaporated and the rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes.
5.       Spoon the mushrooms and peppers into the center of the rice. Spoon the cauliflower and green peas around the edges. Pour 1 cup of the hot water (use less if the rice still seems soupy) on top and cook uncovered on medium-low until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender 5-8 minutes. Do not stir. If the rice is still too firm, add about ½ cup more hot water and cook for another 5 minutes.
6.       Turn the heat to high for 1-2 minutes until the rice from a browned crust on the bottom of the pan. Let the paella stand, uncovered, for 4 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon wedges and thyme or parsley sprigs.

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