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Video:How to Make Vegetable Paella

with Jonathon Stewart

One of world's great rice dishes, Spanish paella doesn't have to be loaded with strange crustaceans and mollusks to be packed with flavor. Try this vegan vegetable paella recipe at home for a dish with impressive taste and presentation.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Make Vegetable Paella

Hi! I'm Jonathon Stewart for About.com Food and today, it's all about vegetarian paella. Paella hails from the hometown of Valencia, Spain, and literally translated means "frying pan," although some trace the word back even further to the Arabic baqiyah, which means "leftovers." Whatever it means, it's delicious.

Vegetable Paella Ingredients

For today's recipe, here's what you'll need:
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped red onion
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 chopped yellow or orange bell pepper
  • 1 chopped red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • a pinch of cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, salt, and ground pepper
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup of pitted black olives
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced parsley

Pans for Paella

Many experts will insist that an authentic paella pan is an essential tool in creating a great paella. Now while there's no question that these pans are specifically designed for the ideal creation of this dish, if you've got an extra wide, non-stick skillet, then you're in business. (Paella, after all, means "frying pan.")

Paella Heating Surfaces

Another key factor is your heating surface. Traditionally, paella is cooked outdoors over an open flame to ensure an even distribution of heat. Try setting the pan over two burners, and be sure the surface is evenly balanced. Just be careful not to leave an exposed flame.

Start the Paella Sofrito

Before we get cooking, cover your saffron with 3 tablespoons of water and set it to the side. Next, set your burners to medium high, heat the olive oil, then sauté the onion, garlic, peppers and eggplant for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika and toss. This mixture is what's known as the sofrito, which is the flavor base for your paella. Now, everything up to this point can be done ahead of time - when you're about 40 minutes away from serving your paella, it's time for the next steps.

Add the Vegetables and Spices

Add in your rice, vegetable stock, tomatoes, the saffron mixture, cayenne, thyme, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Next, add the garbanzos and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring regularly. The key at this stage is to make sure the rice remains a touch al dente as the sauce thickens - you can always add a little vegetable stock if it congeals too quickly. By the end, you want your rice layer to be no thicker than "un ditet," as they say in Catalan - or, a finger's width to me and you. Finally, the socarrat.

Finish the Vegetable Paella

This somewhat elusive caramelized crust is the hallmark of a great batch of paella. Turn your heat up to high for about 5 minutes - you want the bottom layer to be golden brown, but be very careful it does not burn. It's a good idea to test for this consistency with a fork as you go.

Serve the Vegetable Paella

Remove your pan from the heat and let it cool about 5 minutes before garnishing with the olives and parsley. One of my favorite things about this dish - and that the Spanish insist on - is that you serve your paella straight out of the pan.

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