Vegetarian Paella

July 5, 2008

This is a recipe I hold quite dearly to my heart. One, this vegetarian version of the Valencian Spanish paella is as tasty as it’s non-vegetarian cousins and two, it is a recipe I perfected after making SO many different versions of the vegetarian paella.

If you have tasted paella in a Spanish restaurant before, you will find that every, of this rather wet dish’s, rice grain is infused with the most amazing flavors. Usually, it is infused with either seafood or cured Spanish sausages call chorizo. But my favorite has to be the seafood paella and I will save that recipe for another day. :)

This vegetarian paella is quite simple despite it’s tastiness. The key is in the type of rice used – in my case, I find my vegetarian paella work quite beautifully when I mix long grain (basmati) rice with arborio (or any risotto-worthy) rice. But you can definitely just use either of these rice at your own risk ;) Since this is a meatless dish, your rice has to be the star of the dish, which is why toasting your rice with a bit of crushed garlic and olive oil creates great base flavors for your rice, you can also use fresh herbs too but remember to discard them after toasting your rice.

If you are looking for an easy and delicious one pot meal, this is definitely the way to go.

Vegetarian Paella:
3 tablespoon of olive oil + 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 bay leaf
1 onion, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic minced + 1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 medium carrot, halved and sliced
1 cup of green beans, cut into 1 inch length
1 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 red pepper, cut into 1 inch slices
1 large tomato, diced
1/4 cup of spinach, chopped (use frozen ones)
1 3/4 cups of vegetable broth

Spices:
1 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon worth of saffron (can be substituted with turmeric powder)
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste

Method:
Use a pan with a lid instead of a pot for this recipe. It works much better, in my opinion :)

1. Rinse rice with water to clean and drain properly.
2. In a pan, heat up 1 teaspoon of olive oil under medium heat and toss in a clove of crushed garlic. Add rice into the pan and saute until the rice become dry and grains are slightly translucent. This will take about 8-10 minutes. Pour the rice out into a bowl for later and discard the garlic.
3. Using the same pan, add 3 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onions, garlic, bay leaf and carrot until they are soft. Add the zucchini, peppers, diced tomatoes and green beans in and saute for another 2 minutes.
4. Add rice into the vegetable mixture as well as all the spices. Stir until all is well combined.
5. Now is time to add in your vegetable broth – let the pan come to a slight simmer, and cover it with the lid. Let it cook under medium heat for 10 minutes and quickly toss in your frozen spinach, then turn off the heat and let the pan sit for another 15-20 minutes. Do Not Open The Lid. <—- this makes sure that the all moisture and flavor is absorbed completely into the rice. After 15-20 minutes, stir the rice and serve hot. Goes very well with a glass of red wine or grape juice for those who don’t drink anymore :P
This rice dish is rather wet but never soggy and not quite like risotto. It holds itself well with a good balance of moisture. For a vegetarian dish, this is something I am quite proud off and would serve to my meat eating friends without worrying that they would balk! And should they start complaining, a little chorizo on the side usually keeps them happy.

This recipe feeds two hungry people or 4-6 servings as a side dish.

P.S. You will also find that my method of cooking the paella conforms to the southwestern Valencian style paella where the rice is first stir-fried (or in my case, I call it toasting) in oil like a a pilaf. I only do this for the vegetarian paella because it enhances the flavors and taste – and personally, i find toasting rice grains makes the rice hold its shape better and it creates a nice nutty flavor when the rice is cooked.

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