Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick Vegetarian Paella

I always thought that paella was a seafood dish, but a quick wiki search revealed that the three main ingredients are only this: rice, saffron, and olive oil. Great; all vegan! So this vegetarian version is topped with vegetables, instead of meat or fish.

Despite the daunting list of ingredients, it really does, as the name implies, come together pretty quickly.

Heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large pot. Add one cup chopped onion, one cup chopped green bell pepper, 1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms and one minced garlic clove, and saute for 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking rice (make sure to use the kind in a box labeled 'quick-cooking' - it already has greater volume than regular uncooked rice, so if you use the regular, you'll wind up with too much rice in the pot - not to mention it won't be thoroughly cooked). Also add 1 cup vegetable broth, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 tsp crushed saffron threads, and 1/4 tsp dried thyme.

Saffron fascinates me. It is the world's most expensive spice, and for good reason, with each "stigma" from the flower hand-picked, and with one pound of saffron requiring 50,000-75,000 of the flowers! For this reason, it's also quite expensive. However, it goes a long way since most recipes only require a tiny amount to achieve saffron's signature taste. My tiny vial, purchased from an Indian spice store in the East Village over a year ago, is still going strong, and was about $6. One-ounce, in comparison, goes for about $70 (!)

Back to your pot, once you've added that batch of ingredients, bring it all to a boil, cover, reduce heat and cook for ten minutes.

Add one cup chopped tomato, 1/2 cup frozen green peas, 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives, a dash of pepper, and 3-4 coarsely chopped, canned artichoke hearts (about half the can). Cook for 3 minutes until thoroughly heated.

The original recipe called for pimiento-stuffed green olives. Although I found a jar of these easily at Whole Foods, one of the ingredients was lactic acid. Unsure of the source of the lactic acid, I left the bottle on the shelf and took plain old pitted green olives instead. However, once home I did some research and learned that "lactate" and "lactic acid" are vegan - it's lac-TOSE that comes from milk. So next time, the pimiento-stuffed olives it shall be.

Ladle two cups worth of the paella into each of two bowls. Each serving has 350 calories. You'll have about about a cup leftover, in case anyone wants seconds!

onion $0.75
green bell pepper $0.70
cremini mushrooms $1.00
brown rice $2.00
vegetable broth $2.49
tomato $3.07
frozen peas $1.99
green olives $3.99
artichoke hearts $2.29

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance