First, I'm vegetarian and paella is generally NOT vegetarian. Sometimes that means you can just omit the meat/seafood, but you never know if you need to make a flavor substitute for the absence of meat.
Secondly, I do not have a paella pan.
And third, I've only had Paella once before and that was before I was a vegetarian. So the bar isn't set that high, the equipment is missing, and the traditional main ingredients are not an option. Great start! I'm still up for the challenge!
So browsing through my cookbook library, I found one recipe. Mark Bittman's recipe for Tomato Paella, and he offers about 6 variations. But I was really imagining something with summer vegetables, like zucchini and peppers. I had to see if I could find anything online. The World Wide Web certainly must offer more than my poor chef's cookbook library. Again I found Mark Bittman's Tomato Paella recipe (and Video!) but no summer vegetable recipe that I wanted to start with. So considering my 3 major obstacles, I decided to hear what Bittman had to say. After all, it's only my first try. Might as well be basic. Well in his video, Mark debunks my first two hurdles and misconceptions: it doesn't need meat and I don't need a paella pan. Fantastic. Mark, I think we can be friends.
The ingredients: Vegetable Stock, Tomatoes, Rice, Onions, Garlic, Olive Oil, Tomato Paste, Paprika, Paella/Spanish Rice, and Saffron.
Saffron strands: Don't be stingy. This is the signature flavor of the dish!
I am super pleased with this recipe! It's a beautiful dish and all of the flavors blend together well. No ingredient overshadows another.
Bittman also suggests a nice tip. If you like a crisp crust at the bottom (which I do!), take the pan out of the oven after it's done and then put it on the stovetop on high heat. This will crisp the rice at the bottom and give a nice crunch finish in every bite.
Next class: Paella with Mushrooms and Sliced Hard Boiled Egg