The birthplace of paella is the rice-growing region of Valencia, Spain, where it is still often cooked outdoors over an open fire in the classic wide, shallow pan. All cooks seem to have an opinion about the definitive list of ingredients and method for paella. So consider this improvised vegetarian version one that embraces the spirit of the dish, if not the conventional ingredients.
Spanish bomba rice, a medium-grain that absorbs liquid well and maintains firmness, is the classic kind to use, but Goya brand medium-grain rice and arborio (risotto rice) are good alternatives. One characteristic of paella is a crusty, caramelized bottom layer called soccarat. To obtain it, you will need a pan wide enough so the rice spreads to a ½-inch layer. Lacking that, divide the mixture between two smaller skillets. Move the pan from time to time so the rice cooks evenly, then bring it to the table, the traditional way. Your Sunday work pays off. Use paella to stuff colorful bell peppers and roast them on a fresh tomato sauce. More kitchen improvisation.
(For paella, stuffed peppers)
1 package (10 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
½ cup Kalamata olives
6 mixed red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
½ pound green beans
½ pound asparagus
7 plum tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
½ bunch fresh parsley
Few sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
½ cup olive oil
5½ cups vegetable stock
½ teaspoon saffron threads
¼ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2¼ cups medium-grain white rice
1 can (14 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
½ cup bread crumbsSally Pasley Vargas can be reached at email@example.com.