Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Veggie Paella Outer Sunset Style

Dinner is served!

As promised, even though he spent hours fixing the sink, Mr. Green made Paella on Sunday. This veggie dish is just plain delicious. I don't know if it's the saffron or the variety of vegetables or the pan. We've tried it with different whole grains including farro, which has a nice nutty flavor and chewier texture and is my favorite substitute so for for regular brown rice. When we have paella I always eat more of it than I should and then I eat it for breakfast!

Boise, Idaho, the fair city where I resided for 19 years, has the largest Basque population outside of the Basque country. Some of the many benefits of this are a Basque Bar (Bar Gernika), a Basque Restaurant which is part of a quaint little inexpensive downtown hotel (Leku Ona) and a Basque Market (The Basque Market). There is also a museum and a palla court! All situated on a beautiful tree-lined street that is often closed for festivals and special events - where the Basque Market makes, and sells, Paella.

Basque paella, cooked outdoors in large flat copper pans, is a feast for senses. It's beautiful to look at and the smell is irresistible. The pans themselves are beautiful! I have had the privilege of eating it not nearly enough times and it's wonderful. This paella has shell fish and chorizo in it, so it's different and a much heavier dish than our veggie version. And, a treat. Not something that fits in to my diet more than once or twice a year.

Our veggie version is also a feast for the senses. One that I can eat much more often! I say "our" very loosely. I do very little of the actually cooking. On Sunday I got the vegetables out of the fridge, sliced the potatoes and did clean-up. Mostly I just stand around and sip wine when
Mr. Green does the magic. I like that.

The labor in this dish is all in the cutting of the vegetables, which takes about 20 minutes. Putting it together is a breeze and the smell get richer and richer with each addition of vegetables. I love it because it's beautiful on the plate, it smells amazing while it's cooking and it is an amazing eating experience. The veggies retain their character and each bite is slightly, deliciously, different.

Here is the recipe:

Veggie Paella Outer Sunset Style (by Mr. Green)


EVOO, aprox. ¼ cup - enough to cover bottom of pan

6-8 SMALL potatoes, sliced to 1/8"

1/4 cup raw almonds, split length-wise

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

2 small onions, coarsely chopped

1 - 1.5 cups coarse chopped mixed peppers (green and colored Bell - Anahiem - Lipstick - etc.)

1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut to approx. 1"

1/2 cup fresh shelled peas

3/4 cup yellow zucchini, coarsely julienned

1/4 cup pimiento slices or roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped

2 medium firm tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cut green onions, loosely chopped

14 oz jar of artichoke hearts (in water)

generous pinch of saffron threads (see photo)

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

juice of one large lemon

4 tablespoons tomato paste

Cooked grain to yield around 5 cups - short brown rice, farro, etc.

approx 3 cups water

Prepare the grain ahead of time being careful to NOT fully cook the grain. It should be chewy as it will finish cooking with other ingredients.

In small bowl add saffron threads to 1/2 cup cold water and set aside.

In large flat bottom skillet heat the olive oil - medium-high setting.

Evenly spread out potatoes, and pepper flakes. Brown potatoes on one side.

As you turn potatoes, add almond pieces, garlic, onions, peppers and green beans. Sauté for 5 minutes.

Add peas, zucchini and pimentos. Sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Add saffron mixture, lemon juice, spices, tomato paste and an additional 2 1/2 cups water.

Bring to boil and make sure spices and tomato paste are well mixed.

Add grain, reduce heat and allow to simmer.

Once moisture is taken up by the grain and it is about fully cooked add green onions, tomatoes and artichoke hearts.

Cover and simmer until green onions are wilted - it's time to serve!

This is not a traditional paella in any way. Usually the grain is cooked in the pan with the vegetables. This muddles the individual flavors of the different ingredients and makes everything a bit mushy. Cooking the grains first allows the vegetables to maintain their crispness and character. You can add anything you might want . . . asparagus tips or any other vegetables. You can also add other spices. One nice addition, at the end, is a little smoked paprika. No salt mesquite seasoning is good also.


By the way, not going to the grocery this week didn't work out. We didn't have artichoke hearts. At least we bought them from the little store up the street.

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