Paella is truly an interesting dish. It is a compilation of Roman irrigation, the rice brought by the Moors to the Iberian Peninsula and the Spanish worker. Conceived in Valencia, paella is traditionally cooked in a low, flat-bottomed skillet over an open flame. The Spanish workers would cook paella with chicken, rabbit, snails and vegetables - anything that was inexpensive. Now most Spanish regions have their own twists on this famous dish.
My veggie focused take on paella incorporates the other culinary export from Valencia - oranges. Using the zest brightens the flavor profile and the juice adds some necessary acid and sweetness to the dish. I used summer squash and eggplant in my version, but depending on seasonal availability, feel free to substitute any vegetable.
4c chicken stock
Pinch of saffron
5 sprigs of thyme
2T olive oil
1 small yellow squash (cut into ¼"coins)
1 small zucchini (cut into ¼" coins)
½ eggplant (cut into ¼" coins)
1 oz of dried chorizo, finely chopped (about ¼c)
½ onion, finely chopped (about ½c)
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½c)
2T tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1T fresh thyme
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
Pinch of saffron
1c Arborio rice
Flat leave parsley, roughly chopped, for garnish
- Bring stock, saffron and sprigs of thyme to a simmer in a medium size pot. Keep at a simmer until ready to use.
- Heat oil in a large flat bottom skillet over medium high heat. Quickly sear both sides of the vegetable: 2 minutes per side for the yellow squash and zucchini; 4 minutes per side for the eggplant. Set aside.
- In the same skillet add chorizo, onion and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and starting to brown. Add tomato paste, garlic, thyme, paprika and cayenne and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice to skillet, continuing to stir, toasting the rice for 2 minutes. Add the orange zest, juice, saffron and chicken stock. When the liquid boils, reduce heat to low. Stir the rice mixture frequently for 5 minutes. Stop stirring and allow rice to cook for 20 minutes. DO NOT STIR. After 20 minutes, nestle the seared vegetables into the paella, cover the skillet and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Yields: 4 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Active cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Inactive time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Skill level: Easy