Paella in about 30 minutes? Sure! Paella, a composed dry rice dish very similar to Creole Jambalaya and Mexican Arroz con Pollo, is usually a bit of an extravagance both ingredient and time-wise. Americans have taken the Spanish signature dish and adapted it enthusiastically into a fast, satisfying vegetarian one-dish weeknight meal. Here I use quick-cooking brown rice in place of using the white rice.
Paella can be made as simple or elaborate as you choose. Usually it is made with chicken, rabbit, ham, chorizo, and a variety of seafood. Here is one of my favorite recipes, using all vegetables, and cooked in about 30 minutes. I first came across a recipe for vegetable paella in a Perla Myers cookbook she did for Burpee seeds. Then I saw one by Nava Atlas, the vegetarian food writer, in Cooking Light a few years ago and got the official okay for using quick-cooking brown rice. You can make up your own vegetable combination each time you make the paella once you become comfortable with the technique, just keep the peppers, artichokes, saffron or tumeric, and olives as the base. If you are a purist, get a bottle of Spanish olive oil, which has a slightly different flavor than Italian or domestic olive oils. For an added classic flavorful touch at serving time, make the easiest-ever aioli garlic sauce and have lots of lemon wedges for squeezing alongside.
There is a special two-handled metal pan made just for paella–wide, shallow with sloping sides that is descended from the same shape iron pan designed for cooking over an open fire used by Romans occupying the Spanish Mediterranean coast thousands of years ago. The pan is also called a paella. Many heavy-duty anodized aluminum (it has the best metal heat distribution qualities) cookware lines carry a 14-inch round paella pan. I opted for one made from Calphalon; it can be used both stovetop and in the oven, and I like to use it every chance I get, yet often make it in a ceramic casserole. Many cooks I know just use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or even a large Dutch oven in a pinch. Spanish paella pans are available in gradated sizes, 13 1/2-inch to serve 4, 15-inch to serve 6, 17-inch to serve 8, and 22-inch to serve 12, from surlatable.com.
Cooking Method: Stovetop and Oven
Cook Time: About 40 minutes total
- 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise or soy mayonnaise (such as Veganaise)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips and halved
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips and halved
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups uncooked quick-cooking brown rice
- 2 cups vegetable broth (such as Swanson’s)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed, or 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
- 2 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and diced, or 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained and diced
- 1 12-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup frozen petit peas, thawed
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Few grinds black pepper
- 1 lemon, cut into 8 thick wedges, for serving
- In a small bowl, combine the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil with the mayonnaise; stir until smooth. Refrigerate until serving. Makes 3/4 cup.
- Preheat the oven to 325º. In a large skillet or paella pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion until slightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the pepper strips and zucchini, cooking until they soften, 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir until hot. Add the broth, water, parsley, saffron or tumeric; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low to simmer. Cover tightly with foil and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. During the cooking time, move the pan back and forth on the burner for even cooking if necessary. Remove the foil and arrange the tomato, artichoke, peas, olives, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper over the top of the rice; press into the rice.
- Place the pan on the lower third rack of the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the rice is tender, having absorbed all the liquid, and vegetables are cooked. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Set the bowls of aioli and lemons on the side, and serve out of the pan.
Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2008, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.