Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vegetarian Kosher Paella

Spanish cooking seems to be sweeping the United States these days. Tapas joints, pimenton, sherry vinegar... I'm digging this trend. There are so many traditionally gluten-free dishes in the Spanish culinary repertoire, and I love the flavors it has introduced into my cooking. I've been looking forward to trying this recipe because I've always loved paella but it's loaded with shellfish, which are not kosher. It's hard to go wrong with vegetables, rice, and spices - And this dish, which I doctored with my own mix of spices, certainly didn't let me down. This beautiful vegetarian paella, with its vivid spectrum of vegetables, is a flavorful and colorful one-dish meal. The texture and combination of tastes are excellent, and didn't leave me missing the meat. OK, I'll admit it, I served it as a side dish for tuna steaks - But I promise it can hold its own as a vegan/vegetarian main dish!

I used the technique in this article to create a socarrat, the crusty layer of browned, caramelized rice at the bottom of the pan which adds a certain je ne sais quois to paella. This is why the recipe instructs you to turn the heat up at the end of the cooking process. Do take the time to do this - You won't be disappointed. The wider your pan is, the thinner the layer of rice will be and the more flavorful, chewy socarrat you will be able to create.

Keeping the rice al dente was a good move - I think leftovers will reheat perfectly. Next time I will try replacing a little bit of the broth with white wine, which I think would add depth to the flavor. I might also try adding marinated artichoke hearts with the other vegetables. Neither of these changes are necessary, but they will give this dish a little more oomph.

I look forward to eating leftover paella for lunch at work all week. Kosher, vegan, gluten-free... But most importantly, delicious.

3/10/10 UPDATE: I made this dish again, this time with turmeric instead of saffron. The result was fabulous and quite similar in color, if a little different in taste. If you can't afford saffron or don't have it on hand, eliminate the saffron and instead add 1 tsp turmeric (or to taste) at the point when you add the other spices.


[Vegan / Gluten-Free / Soy-Free / Pareve ]

1 pinch saffron (approximately 1/2 tsp)
1 medium eggplant, cut into large chunks
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp dried cilantro
2 teaspoons sweet Spanish paprika
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup green beans, cut into thirds
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup black pitted olives, sliced
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced (optional)

Cover saffron with 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and set aside. Sprinkle eggplant chunks with salt and allow to sit in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain the eggplant.

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy pan. Saute the onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers and eggplant for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika and toss. Then add rice, vegetable stock, tomatoes, saffron (along with the water it's been soaking in), salt, cayenne, paprika, thyme and generous amounts of freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered. Stir frequently.

Add the mushrooms, green beans and chickpeas. Cook uncovered, stirring often, for another 15 minutes or until the rice has become tender but is still al dente, and the sauce has thickened. Additional broth, water or white wine may be added as needed during cooking to keep the rice moist.

Turn the heat up to high for 5 minutes or until a browned, caramelized crust forms on the bottom side of the rice. Test for this crust by inserting a fork into the paella and checking for resistance at the bottom. Watch carefully to make sure the rice does not burn. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before garnishing with fresh parsley and olive slices. Serve hot.


K Allrich said...

Oh my! This sounds totally fabulous [and better than the "real thing" between you and me ;-)].


ByTheBay said...

Thanks Karina! You know, I've never really been a big fan of shellfish. So I agree that this is better than the real thing.

Shinscot said...

this is making a wonderful and filling lunch for me this week! and, i can't believe i can actually eat the eggplant in it (long story ::grin::).

i did make a few modifications, mainly because i was starting to crave meat, so i did put in a bit of chicken chorizo sausage. and a few shrimp (sorry!). but i also added the marinated artichoke hearts you mentioned, and it is scrumptious! i think finishing off the cooking with the wine added really helped.

this really is a great take on the "traditional" and i prefer having all the veggies in there. and i know that when i'm not craving animal-based protein, this will work wonderfully to fulfill my paella needs.

ByTheBay said...

Shinscot - Yay! I'm glad you liked it. I can see how chorizo and/or shrimp would taste really good in there. I will definitely try the artichoke hearts next time