Vegetable Paella

We swap the traditional sausage and seafood for bell peppers, fennel, artichokes, and peas in our vegetable paella.

Vegetable Paella
SERVES 6 VEG
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Though traditional paella centers on a variety of meat and seafood, we wanted to develop a vegetable-focused version that highlighted the array of hearty vegetables common in Spanish cuisine: artichokes, bell peppers, fennel, and peas. We gave the artichokes and peppers extra flavor by roasting and then tossing them with a bright, lemony sauce. We sautéed the fennel with chopped onion to give it a rich caramelized flavor that gave the dish aromatic backbone. Chopped kalamata olives brought in a distinct pop of briny, contrasting flavor. To infuse the rice with complex, authentic flavor, we bloomed the paprika with the garlic and browned diced tomatoes to give them savory depth. We coated the rice with this potent mixture before adding broth, wine, and saffron and simmering the rice until tender. Cooking on the stovetop alone yielded unevenly cooked rice, so we transferred it to a 350-degree oven where the grains cooked to perfection in the steady, even heat. You will need at least a 6-quart Dutch oven for this recipe. While we prefer the flavor and texture of jarred whole baby artichokes, you can substitute 18 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry, for the jarred. Bomba rice is the most traditional rice for this dish, but you can use any variety of Valencia rice. If you cannot find Valencia rice, you can substitute Arborio rice. Socarrat , a layer of crusty browned rice that forms on the bottom of the pan, is a traditional part of paella. In this version, socarrat does not develop because most of the cooking is done in the oven; if desired, there are directions on how to make a socarrat before serving in step 5.
3 cups jarred whole baby artichokes packed in water, quartered, rinsed, and patted dry
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped coarse
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
9 garlic cloves, peeled (3 whole, 6 minced)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 onion, chopped fine
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, minced, and drained again
2 cups Bomba rice
3 cups vegetable broth
⅓ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
½ cup frozen peas, thawed

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss artichokes and peppers with olives, whole garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in bowl. Spread vegetables in hot sheet and roast until artichokes are browned around edges and peppers are browned, 20 to 25 minutes; let cool slightly.
2. Mince roasted garlic. In large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, 2 tablespoons parsley, lemon juice, and minced roasted garlic together. Add roasted vegetables and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and fennel and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Stir in remaining minced garlic and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and cook until mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice and cook until grains are well coated with tomato mixture, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, saffron, and 1 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, transfer pot to oven, and bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 25 to 35 minutes.
5. For optional socarrat, transfer pot to stovetop and remove lid. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating pot as needed, until bottom layer of rice is well browned and crisp.
6. Sprinkle roasted vegetables and peas over rice, cover, and let paella sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.

VARIATION
Vegetable Paella in a Paella Pan VEG
Substitute 14- to 15-inch paella pan for Dutch oven, increase broth to 3¼ cups, and increase wine to ½ cup. Before placing pan in oven, cover tightly with aluminum foil.

ALL ABOUT GRAINS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
Mediterranean cuisines are heavily reliant on all kinds of whole grains, which are both healthy and filling. The list below highlights the grains that we like to use since they are easy to find in American supermarkets. The list includes cornmeal, which isn’t technically a grain, but we include it here since it is prepared and served in a similar way.

Barley
This nutritious high-fiber, high-protein, and low-fat cereal grain is used in Turkey, Morocco, Italy, and beyond. A common ingredient in soups and composed grain dishes or salads, it has a nutty flavor that is similar to that of brown rice. Barley is available in multiple forms. Hulled barley, which is sold with the hull removed and the fiber-rich bran intact, is considered a whole grain and takes a long time to cook; it should be soaked prior to cooking. There is also quick-cooking barley, which may be sold as kernels or flakes. Our favorite is pearl (or pearled) barley, which is hulled barley that has been polished to remove the bran. Pearl barley cooks much more quickly than hulled barley; however, in our testing we have found that there is no consistent standard of labeling to grade the extent to which the barley is pearled, which greatly affects the cooking time. While some brands of pearl barley are barely pearled and take almost 40 minutes to cook, others are thoroughly pearled and take only 20 minutes. To account for this, we give a 20-minute time window in our pearl barley recipes; be sure to check for doneness often while cooking.

Bulgur
Best known as an element in tabbouleh, bulgur is actually quite versatile. It is most commonly used in North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean as an ingredient in salads and pilafs and also to bulk up meat-based stuffings and fillings. Bulgur is made from parboiled or steamed wheat kernels/berries that are then dried, partially stripped of their outer bran layer, and coarsely ground. The result of this process is a highly nutritious grain that cooks relatively quickly—some types require only soaking. Coarse-grind bulgur, which requires simmering, is best suited for making pilaf. Note that medium-grind bulgur can work in either application if you make adjustments to soaking or cooking times. Cracked wheat, on the other hand, often sold alongside bulgur, is not precooked and cannot be substituted for bulgur. Be sure to rinse bulgur, regardless of grain size, to remove excess starches that can turn the grain gluey.

Cornmeal
Cornmeal is the base of Italian polenta and is also used as an ingredient in North African breads. The type you use makes a big difference, so pay close attention to what the recipe calls for and what the label says. At the store, you’ll see fine-, medium-, and coarse-ground; instant and quick-cooking; and whole-grain, stone-ground, and regular. For our Creamy Parmesan Polenta , we like degerminated coarse-ground cornmeal, which produces a soft-textured polenta with great corn flavor.

Farro
A favorite ingredient in Tuscan cuisine, these hulled whole-wheat kernels boast a sweet, nutty flavor and a chewy bite. In Italy, the grain is available in three sizes—farro piccolo , farro medio , and farro grande —but the midsize type is most common in the United States. Although we often turn to the absorption method for quicker-cooking grains, farro takes better to the pasta method because the abundance of water cooks the grains more evenly. When cooked, the grains will be tender but have a slight chew, similar to al dente pasta.

Freekeh
Sometimes spelled frikeh or farik , freekeh is a nutrient-packed grain that’s used in eastern Mediterranean and North African kitchens in pilafs, salads, and more. It has a nutty, slightly smoky flavor. Freekeh is made from durum wheat, which is harvested while immature and soft and then fire-roasted and rubbed to remove the chaff, or husk (freekeh means “to rub” in Arabic). It can then be left whole or cracked into smaller pieces. We found that simply boiling the grain like pasta was the most foolproof way to achieve a chewy, firm texture.

Wheat Berries
Wheat berries, often erroneously referred to as “whole wheat,” are whole, unprocessed kernels of wheat. Since none of the grain has been removed, wheat berries are an excellent source of nutrition. Compared with more refined forms of wheat (cracked wheat, bulgur, and flour), wheat berries require a relatively long cooking time. In the test kitchen, we like to toast the dry wheat berries until they are fragrant, and then simmer them for about an hour until they are tender but still retain a good bite.

 

 

Rice & Grain

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