My Vegetarian Spin on Classic Paella

Take me back to Spain please ! I found myself daydreaming about being in Barcelona, sipping on sweet sangria and chowing down on seafood paella.  Yumm! Now that I am really trying to eat a healthier, I was seriously inspired to make a vegan version of the classic seafood Paella . TRUST ME sproutlings you won't miss the meat or fish in this dish. This meat-free paella packs plenty of flavor from the Spanish saffron broth, tomato infused short-grain rice and of course the caramelized crust (socarrat) on the bottom. No Paella is complete until you get a beautiful socarrat  in the bottom of your pan. 

Many times paella is made over an open fire in a special paella pan. Unfortunately, living in New York city  in a tiny apartment I didn't have either. I found that cooking over the stovetop in shallow stainless steel pan works just fine to create the crispy socarrat. 

For my first attempt making paella, it came out beautiful- smoky, earthy, and delicious. A true taste of Spain in each bite! 

R E C I P E : 

2 cups Arborio Rice or Spanish Rice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 quart vegetable stock
1 cup dry white wine
10 cloves of garlic, 4 crushed and 6 minced
1 spanish onion, finely diced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
large pinch saffron
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 dry bay leaves
1 can whole tomatoes
2 bell peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 cup capers
2 cups frozen peas
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Fresh Parsley
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Notes:  Make sure to use short grain rice in this dish; substituting other types of rice may not work! ( NO Uncle Ben's! ) I developed the dish using brown Arborio rice; but if you can find paella rice that would be better. Also make sure to use smoked paprika (pimentón!) if you can find it – regular paprika is not quite the same.

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice by weight. Made from the stigma of a crocus flower, it takes thousands to make a single ounce. Fortunately you just need a pinch in this recipe. I soaked the saffron in warm 1/4 cup of warm water before adding to the broth to get the most flavor.  I also decided to use both saffron and turmeric in this recipe to get the added health benefits. If you cant' get your hands on saffron, turmeric will be fine to substitute.

Finally, patience is key! Don’t be too eager, and just keep an eye on it–once the edges are really browned, and even crispy to touch, then it’s ready. And you’ll be so happy you waited, because the best part about paella is the soccrat at the bottom!

D I R E C T I O N S:

Peel the garlic cloves, and mince them finely. Peel and chop one onion. Heat the olive oil in your pan. Add the garlic and onions and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until onions are translucent. Small dice your peppers and add them to the pan, along with the tomatoes, saffron water broth, turmeric, smoked paprika, salt, & pepper.  Stir  to combine and cook for a few minutes. Add the rice to the pan. Pour in the vegetable broth and wine,enough to fully cover the rice and vegetables, but not enough to overflow the pan! Add the peas and bay leaves to the pan. The hard part is done – now you just wait for the liquid to cook out and cook the rice! The broth should be boiling at this point. Turn down the heat a bit, and let simmer without stirring until the liquid has evaporated, about 40 minutes or so. You can add a bit more liquid (broth or water) if necessary if you find that the rice is not done.
After the liquid is mostly cooked out, squeeze in fresh lemons, add the capers, and fresh parsley. Remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes (a little more of the liquid will absorb as it sits).