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

Citrus Salad w/Dandelion Greens, Lentils and Ricotta Salata

I am not a big salad lover but the right salad will cause an immediate contradiction.  I think of Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie’s line in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Django Unchained, “Gentlemen, you had my curiosity….but now you have my attention.”  That’s the best way I can describe the right salad. 

Enter my Citrus Salad w/ Dandelion Greens, Lentils and Ricotta Salata.  As spring is getting underway, the abundance of fruit and vegetables are inspiring within me new recipe ideas.  This citrus salad includes three types of oranges with varying hues.  Cara Cara, Blood Orange and Navel Oranges.  Cara Cara oranges are a red-fleshed navel orange that is sweet with cherry undertones.  The Blood Orange is a ruby-red fleshed orange that is sweet and tart (my favorite one) and lastly, the navel orange, which is plump, juicy and sugary sweet.  All of these sweet oranges round out the other flavors of the pleasantly bitter Dandelion Green.

Dandelion greens can be treated as any green.  They benefit well with lightly sautéing them in oil and garlic to round out the bitterness.  The last piece to this salad is one of my favorite cheeses.  Ricotta Salata.  If you like ricotta cheese or feta, then ricotta salata is for you.  It’s an Italian cheese that is firm and salty.  So, it goes well with sweet flavors.

I added mint to the salad, as well as brine cured black olives and pistachios for crunch. To say that this salad is brimming with complex flavors is an understatement but trust me they compliment each other well.

Citrus Salad w/ Dandelion Greens, Lentils & Ricotta Salata//serves 2

salad
2 cara cara oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
1-cup French lentils
1 large garlic clove, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups dandelion greens, large leaves torn in half
6-8 mint leaves
½ cup of brine-cured black olives (or your favorite olives)
3 ounces ricotta salata, shaved into long strips
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Kosher Salt & Cracked Black pepper to taste

garnish
pistachios

Bring 2-½ cups water to a boil in a saucepan with lentils, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt.  Reduce heat to simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Mix the balsamic vinegar and olive together in a small mixing bowl.  Set aside.

Divide dandelion green between two bowls, top with sliced oranges, lentils, mint leaves, brine-cured olives.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil mixture on top of salad. Add shaved ricotta salata and garnish with pistachios.  Season with salt and pepper.