If you saw my wacky Instagram videos (you can find me @bubblesandbooyah, and if we’re not friends yet, we better be after you read this post), you would know that I made a bangin’ vegan paella Sunday night. It was AMAZING, as was the associated dance party. What is paella, you ask? Paella is a Spanish rice dish that originated in Valencia and is made with white rice and vegetables (like artichoke and peppers), and is seasoned with saffron, rosemary, paprika and lemon. Traditionally, it has local seafood and/or meat as well (obv as a veg, I don’t eat this, so in my version, I add more veggies, along with veggie sausage as the protein). These days, you can pretty much throw anything in there that goes well with rice (which basically excludes nothing). If you want to be legit as sh*t, you make it a huge, flat paella pan, and simmer the ingredients in broth over an open fire made out of orange and pine branches, and pine cones to season it. In my urban apartment, I don’t really have space for an open fire pit, so I just make it on the stove top. It’s DELICIOUS beyond words. I had the legit version when I went to Spain with my entire family (pre-veg, at age 11), and since then, every member of my family has been completely enamored with this dish. It is seriously unreal. I make my version with Arborio rice (which is Italian and sassy like me), which gives it a firm, creamy, and chewy texture (it’s also used to make risotto). My sister uses Bomba paella rice (aka the real deal) and that is even more amazing. It’s up to you. Whatever rice you choose (although it needs to be short or medium grain, because of its’ ability to absorb one and a half times as much water as regular rice without getting mushy) , there is no way around it: paella is nourishing, vibrant and straight-up killer. Serve with a Spanish Rioja and light salad and you have a super impressive, nutritious meal – so versatile that it’s perfect for date night OR a dinner party. Here’s what you do:
12 ounce packaged vegan sausage, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-oz can of marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
6 to 8 saffron threads (or a pinch if you can spare it)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Step One: Prep your veggies. To make life easier, I chop and prep all my veggies first. I put the artichokes, squash, carrots, asparagus, peas, tomatoes into a large bowl and set it aside. The onion and sausage I keep separate.
Step Two: Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 2 Tbsp Earth Balance in large skillet, and saute the onion until translucent (about 8 minutes). Add the rice and spices and toast for 1 minute. After toasting, add 1 cup of broth to the pan, and turn the heat to medium low. Allow to simmer, stirring the rice and broth mixture constantly (this is important!), not allowing the rice to burn. After the rice has absorbed the broth, repeat this step, adding 1 cup of broth at a time until it is almost completely absorbed.
Step Three: Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in large saucepan (Basically, I have to divide and conquer here because I only have one large skillet. Use what you have). Saute the garlic for a few minutes, and add the sliced sausage. Allow the sausage to brown. Add all of the remaining veggies plus the bay leaf to the saucepan and cover, cooking over medium heat and stirring every few minutes. Once the veggies are almost done, turn the heat off and remove from heat (if your rice happens to finish first, vice versa. Mine usually are done at about the same time).
Step Four: Combine. Once the veggies are almost done, add them to the large skillet and stir to combine with the cooked rice. Allow any excess liquid to be absorbed, stirring occasionally over medium heat, uncovered. It’s okay if the rice on the bottom of the pan burns, that is the best part!
Step Five: Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with squeeze of lemon and extra lemon wedges. Yum!!
Perfection. The saffron gives this dish a gorgeous, golden hue, and the pimeton adds a smokiness that makes it acceptable to not cook this over an open fire (which to me, seems like a fire hazard). This has been one of my favorite dishes to prepare for years, and a great one I keep in my arsenal to impress a special someone, or a group of friends. Alternatively, if you have a pan big enough, it’s a one pot meal (just throw everything into your paella pan and stir occasionally). With a glass of red wine and a light, fresh salad on the side, you have the perfect, season-less, vibrant dish, one that is exotic and exciting, but nourishing enough to still be familiar and comforting. It really is the best of both worlds. I truly hope you guys enjoy this as much as I do – it’s a special one.