recipe: paella vegetariano

Paella is a cornerstone dish of Iberian cuisine. The famed Paella Valencia is the variant most people know, combining a wonderful version bringing proteins as diverse as crustaceans, mollusks, chicken, local sausage (chorizo or linguisa are most common), but many variants include other local seafood (cod) and meats (rabbit) along with some select veggies (peas). This is a dish I find myself ordering as a default at almost every Porto-American restaurant as the way I grade their skill and ability in preparing food in general based on everything from the soccara (the crusty rice supposed to be at the bottom) to the use of the saffron and garlic to the choices in the seafood included. It doesn’t take much to ruin the dish, then again, it also takes just the simple bits of TLC to make it wonderful. The defining property is the saffron, with a deep, savory, flowery, orgasm of flavor (yes, I said it, orgasm, it’s part of plant sex for the crocus, it fits) when done right. There are people who use turmeric to make it look like yellow rice but that can lose some of the very nature of the dish (another time, I’ll show a decent substitute). After that, it’s all how you stack the flavors starting with the garlic and oil.

For the veggie version, not only was it eliminating all the typical protein elements, but trying to incorporate flavors that still made sense to the tradition of the dish, including cooking times / styles and so on that looked good in my local market (it was a tough trip, so there’s not a lot in it, which, I think, worked out well). It is quite possible to add any variant of veggies that are fresh and local as it is part of how the dish was built to begin with so use your imagination and enjoy your local market and explore things like summer squashes, eggplant, fennel, other alliums, etc. plus, adding in elements like legumes or lentils for proteins. In this case, we used tofo (shhhhh, don’t tell.)

I did a similar version of the paella idea a while back harkening my love of Delta cuisine, so feel free to reference the Casserole Poisson a l’Acadian and any of the other Iberian meals I’ve done for other ideas.

Stock *
Red Bell Pepper
Red Onion
Shitakki Mushroom
green peas
Collard or other dark leafy green (ie: spinach)
Olive Oil
Rosemary, dried
Pepper corns (black and white)
Red pepper flakes (if desired)
paella pan (or large fry pan or skillet)
stock pot *

* the stock is made along the way based on the leftovers from the prep, you can eliminate the homemade stock and use pre-made as desired

Remove the paper and base from the garlic and place the cloves in the pan with oil and the dried rosemary
Over medium heat allow it to begin to meld flavors
Coarsely dice the pepper, onion and celery
Place the unused parts of the veggies in the stock pot with water with pepper corns and bring to a boil for no less than 20 minutes
Place the chopped veggies in the paella pan, coat with the oil and allow to begin to saute over low heat
Coarsely dice the mushroom, tomatoes and collard and hold aside
Julienne strips of bell pepper, onion and celery and hold aside
Place the unused parts of the veggies in the stock pot with the rest of the veggies already boiling and allow to continue to boil
Place the rice in the paella pan, coat with the oil and allow to begin to toast with the veggies, do not allow the rice to burn
Once the stock initially boils out, strain the veggies out to leave just the liquid
Add the saffron to the stock and allow it to steep for a few minutes
Add the stock to the paella pan at 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice, bring it to a boil, bring down to a simmer and allow to cook according to the rice instructions until just shy of tender (about 20 minutes or so), season with black pepper and paprika as necessary
Once the rice begins to tenderize add the mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and collard on the top and allow to begin to steam covered, re-season as necessary with the black pepper.
Stir the entire mixture together and let any excess liquid boil off
Decorate the top with the julienned pepper, onion and celery and turn the heat up high
All the rice to just begin to caramelize (almost burn but not quite) on the bottom of the pan to create the “soccara”
Serve family style or with a bed of collard leaves in a bowl with a serving of the paella spooned over them

About thedoormouse

I am I. That’s all that i am. my little mousehole in cyberspace of fiction, recipes, sacrasm, op-ed on music, sports, and other notations both grand and tiny:
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