Vegetarian Paella w/ Roasted Tomatoes & Lima Beans

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Paella is a dish that brings about family and friends.  It is convivial and a feast for the eyes and your taste buds.  The most popular paella recipes are made with seafood but originally, it was made with rabbit, chicken and three types of beans.  This version is inspired by Food Network’s Kitchen Vegetable Paella.  It combines a mélange of vegetables including roasted tomatoes, fennel, haricots verts and artichokes.  I added zucchini, omitted the shitake and included lima beans for the protein kick.  The dish was perfect.  For the artichokes, I purchased Monterey Farms ArtiHearts from Whole Foods or you could use jarred artichokes.  One of the keys to great paella is the rice. The rice should be medium grain such as Arborio rice.  Traditionally, bomba rice, also called Valencia rice is used and if you can source it in your area, go for it.  However, any short grain medium rice will work.  The rice is important in paella as it absorbs the liquid that you add to the dish.  Also, also, also.   Well-cooked paella develops that crispy bottom layer that is well appreciated.  By no means am I a paella expert, just an enthusiast, but this part of the dish is extra yummy.  Paella is one of those dishes that has a WOW! factor.  You will definitely impress your guests with it.  

Serve this with a great bottle of wine.  Enjoy!

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Vegetarian Paella w/ Roasted Tomatoes & Lima Beans//makes 6-8 servings
Inspired by Food Network Kitchen

8 vine-ripened plum tomatoes
Kosher salt
6-8 sprigs thyme
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 large bulb fennel, cut into 8 wedges
2-packages artichoke hearts (I used Monterey Farms Natural ArtiHearts) or 2-16oz jars
1-15 oz can lima beans
2 large zucchini, cut into cubes
1 large eggplant, cut into cubes
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
2 ½ cups short-grain paella rice
4 ounces haricots verts or string beans, halved if large
½ cup Kalamata olives
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the tomatoes into wedges and arrange on a baking sheet.  Season tomatoes with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and place thyme sprigs atop of the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to caramelize. Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the paella, heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or a paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, smoked paprika, and saffron and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Add the fennel wedges and cook until lightly browned on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the fennel and add the artichoke hearts, zucchini, lima beans and eggplant to the skillet; cook until slightly tender, about 4 more minutes.  Pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by about one-third. Stir in the rice and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt; add the vegetable stock.  Increase the heat to high and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Scatter the haricots verts over the rice. Remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the paella to the oven and bake, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the paella inside to continue cooking until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and place the roasted tomatoes on top, along with the Kalamata olives.  Garnish with parsley, if desired