A few years ago, I went to a potluck with everyone at the lab I worked in at Georgia Tech and we were all supposed to bring something from our country of origin. Pretty much everyone was either an international student or a first generation American, so I knew there would be some really cool dishes to try. What would I bring?! My ancestors are American. You have to go really far back to get anything remotely interesting and even then, it’s mostly just British people. [boring]. And I wasn’t going to show up with Velveeta cheese. [#America]
I stole my husband’s identity instead, and went with a Spanish dish. I thought a vegetarian paella would be perfect because A) I knew I could eat it at a potluck full of unknowns and B) I thought everyone would like it because it’s just rice and veggies and spices. So these were early days, people. I read through a bunch of recipes online and was NOT going to spend an arm and a leg on feeding these people, so saffron was out. I realized that most would say it’s an essential part of paella, but nonetheless I skipped it. I figured no one would even know.
Well it was kind of lame. People said they liked it but I don’t know…I think they were being nice. I thought it was kind of bland. So ever since then, I’ve wanted to repeat it and do it properly with lots of spices, and more importantly, saffron.
There you have it, the history of resolution number 34. Not just paella. Tasty paella.
I ventured to the local Indian grocery store to get the saffron – it may be one of the fanciest things I’ve ever purchased! It came in it’s own little case and everything. I had to ask for it at the register, they don’t even put it out! (#fancy) I got the smallest quantity they had because I’m cheap (#notfancy). But it’s still enough to last me some time.
Then, I got to work on chopping up my veggies. I went with peppers, carrots, asparagus, and tomatoes. And of course garlic and onion. Last time I did green beans which was really good – but asparagus was on sale at Publix so there you have it.
I heated a little olive oil in a large skillet, and I tossed all the chopped veggies in. After they had begun to soften, I added 1 cup vegetable broth and 1 cup water to the skillet, and 1 cup short-grain rice. I used arborio rice in the past, but I didn’t have it on hand this time. I had picked up some idli rice at the Indian grocery when I was there getting the saffron, totally blind just figured it kind of looked like arborio, so it would probably do. Turns out, it was perfect! After adding the liquid and the rice, I added the spices (saffron, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper) and covered, letting the dish simmer for about 20 minutes to cook the rice. Once the liquid is cooked down, then it’s ready! Watch the liquid level to make sure you don’t let it get stuck to the skillet. If you don’t think the rice is cooked through, add a little more water and recover.
I thought it was great! The veggies were still crisp enough and had good flavor, and it had a good amount of heat.
Lessons learned here:
- Sometimes you can skimp on ingredients when you know you’re never going to use it again and you just don’t want to buy some obscure spice. I do not recommend this, however, when considering saffron and paella.
- I should have gotten some fresh herbs to garnish with, I think parsley would’ve been a nice touch. Maybe even cilantro.
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and diced (or green beans!)
3 bell peppers, the more colorful the better (I used 1 orange, 1 yellow, 1 red)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (this is all I had at home, but a whole pint would be even better!)
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 cup short grain rice (arborio, idli, etc)
1 pinch of saffron
crushed red pepper, to taste
salt and pepper
fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish, optional
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
- Toss the prepared vegetables into the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften
- Add the vegetable broth and water and turn the heat down to a low simmer
- Add the rice and spices. Stir to mix well and cover. Let cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- Top with fresh herbs if desired