Boy, do we have a treat for you today. I (Anne) am currently in town visiting Donna, and as is our habit, we’re cooking up a storm. Sunday dinners are always some of the best blowouts, and given that today was also Valentine’s Day, with a good crowd coming over to boot, we wanted to go all out. We were already planning on Donna’s My Heart Beets For You salad, plus the glorious Julia Child chocolate almond masterpiece for dessert, but what to do for an entree?
I suggested artichoke hearts, in keeping with the Valentine holiday spirit, and then came around to the paella plan for this week’s Meatless Monday. We decided to combine two approaches: the first was from The Perfect Pantry – we loved the combination of veggies (featuring artichoke hearts) as well as the spicy garlic finishing sauce. We also really like Mark Bittman’s approach to vegetarian paella, as featured in “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”, wherein the vegetables are not cooked into the rice mixture stovetop but later roasted on top of the rice in the oven – the juices from the vegetables drip down into the rice mixture and get nice caramelization to boot. The pan is then returned to the stovetop to finish, creating the lovely crust on the bottom that is known as “soccarat”.
So we married the two approaches and tweaked it with a few of our own touches as we went. The result was pretty magnificent, if I dare say so myself. If you think paella is incomplete without an assortment of meats, we implore you to give this a try.
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups Spanish Bomba rice, or Arborio (risotto) rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (or more for desired color)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 medium zucchini, cut into half-moons
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
1/2Â jalapeÃ±o, finely chopped (reserve the rest fir the sauce)
6 frozen artichoke hearts, quartered
6 large shiitake or baby bella mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
8 medium scallions,chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach leaves
3 strips roasted red pepper, sliced lengthwise, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 450. Heat vegetable broth in a saucepan to just under a boil, then reduce to a simmer, add saffron. Heat oil in a paella pan or a very large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until just starting to soften. Add rice and stir well until all grains are coated with oil. Add the splash of wine and stir until absorbed. Ladle by ladle, add stock and stir until each addition is absorbed. Continue until rice is cooked through but still firm and with just a touch of a ‘bite’. Add spices, using a bit more turmeric if a deeper yellow is desired. Taste and add more salt if desired.
Layer zucchini, red pepper, jalapeno, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, peas, scallions and tomato over the top of the rice mixture (do not stir in). Roast for about 15 minutes, until vegetables have started to brown. Remove from oven, stir vegetables and rice together, adding spinach and parsley. Return to stovetop and cook over medium-high heat for just about 5 minutes to create the crunchy crust on the bottom (don’t stir, just keep an eye on it). Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with red pepper strips (and asparagus too, if you happen to have some handy from another dish, as we did) and serve from the paella pan or skillet, spooning sauce over each serving.
SPICY GARLIC FINISHING SAUCE
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2Â jalapeÃ±o, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 tsp dried
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
Puree the peppers, cumin, salt, garlic, thyme, oregano, and half the oil and parsley. Stir in the remaining oil and parsley. Transfer to a serving dish.
— posted by Donna and Anne