paella primavera


One recent Sunday afternoon, we went leafing through new cookbooks for inspiration. Though this particular post didn't come from one of these hardbacks, heavy with future dinners, one book that called out to us from the shelves of one of my favorite stores (okay, okay, my favorite one EVER), Anthropologie, could not go unmentioned. While I currently and constantly lust after just about everything this store carries, my obsession does not end with the perfectly tailored jackets and one-of-a-kind dresses. Rather, it overflows into the other areas that they sweeten with uniqueness, the furniture, the hardware, and yes, the room of all rooms, the kitchen.

Though I imagine I will one day do all of my cooking in one (or twelve) of their coquettish frill-and-flower covered aprons (THIS ONE), all of which could pass for vintage summer dresses, for now, owning an adorable pair of elephant salt and pepper shakers will have to do. And flower-painted measuring cups.

Getting to the point now, the book that captivated us is called Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, a chef whose creations are all inspired by his Mediterranean heritage, a similarity I can both recognize and appreciate. (Book can also be found on Amazon for a fraction of the price, as most all things can.) Suggestions and results to come from Ottolenghi soon.

Alright, alright, enough gushing. Now on to the culinary masterpiece that we attempted this time around, which came from a revisit to the March issue of Vegetarian Times. What they suggested to us was a vegetarian's version of a Spanish paella, most often and traditionally done as a seafood dish. Not so for cute Colin and I. The ingredients can be found here:

Though a paella staple, we decided to make due without the saffron threads, due to the dollar signs this spice normally entails. Other substitutions include brown basmati rice rather than Valencia white rice (a swap we were initially skeptical about, but that turned out quite beautifully) and no black olives, which are labeled as optional anyhow. So we opted out and went for all greenies.

Begin by heating the olive oil in a nonstick pan. We chose to use the wok for this endeavor, seeing as the list of ingredients was long, and the deep shape of the wok seemed appropriate for this dish. If you are snazzy enough to own your own paella pan, then you are in good shape to remaster this recipe at any time. If not, you can wok it up as we did, or simply reach for your biggest skillet. Not even a true Spaniard would know the difference.

Next, add the broccoli, peppers, and green onions and cook for about five minutes.

Now it is time to stir in the broth (water works if you find no broth in your pantry; adding a little extra spice will make up for the lack of flavor), garlic, and saffron, should you be willing to spend the ca$h. One of these days, I will be able to afford saffron, it's true.

Once this mixture has begun to boil, which shouldn't take long at all, sprinkle the rice over the ingredients and cover, allowing to simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Now, if you're anything like me, you may be raising an eyebrow over a rice that normally takes 45 minutes to cook being fully prepared in less than half the time. I know, I know. It's weird, and ever-so-slightly more al dente than usual, but it works.

After about ten minutes, sprinkle the peas (MY FAVORITE VEGETABLE EVER, IF THE RECIPE HAS PEAS, I'M IN), tomatoes, and olives over the rice. Cover again, and cook for about eight minutes more. Then, remove from heat and let rest, still covered, for about five minutes before serving. After this, you are free to add salt and pepper to taste, if you'd like. By now, your dish should be looking something like this:

To serve, take the lemon and slice it up into wedges (enough for each plate, and this serves about six, to have a wedge or two). Spoon it up into bowls, where it works best, and garish with the parsley and the lemon slices.

There you have it, and it tastes just as lovely as it looks. A little bite of citrus, the bright freshness of the parsley and the vegetables and rice, gently simmered in the broth. Warm yet light, sure to be a summery dinner staple, seeing as Vegetarian Times suggests seasonal swaps for the main vegetables in this dish, a trick that can work for endless variations on most any meal.

Cute Colin & his pita smile, which makes a great side addition for dipping.