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Vegetarian Paella

I want to make a paella. But all Martha offers is a traditional recipe (fish, sausage), and there’s nary a mention of it in any of the Moosewood cookbooks. However, I know from experience that excellent vegetarian paella is possible. The question, then, is which online recipe has the best odds of being worth my time? I lean toward the BBC’s, but then this one got a five-eggplant rating, and this one’s intriguing for the smoked paprika—although of course I don’t quite know where I’d get smoked paprika—, and, finally, it seems odd to me that none of the others have saffron, so one with saffron but without the pan worship that some people seem to think is necessary to make paella right. What seems most likely to be good? Or have you other suggestions?



okay, first it is sad that the person at ivu is going to try to make paella but doesn’t know what a dutch oven is… not that you make paella traditionally in a dutch oven, but still. (you can take that with a pinch of sea salt, we all know that i am a snob… but, i just used my cast-iron dutch oven tonight to make a scrumptious vegetarian walnut-saffron risotto)

second, if you have a dutch oven, follow only that part of her recipe. not that fennel can’t go in it… but that’s like saying that anything can go on a philly cheese steak… everybody knows that that just ain’t true, no matter how much you like fennel, or eggplant for that matter, they don’t belong on a philly cheese steak, nor in a paella. sure, make either of those recipes, but call it something else! (and don’t add cilantro)

if you want something that will approximate real paella (except without the seafood taste) that also has a certain sophisticated elegance to the palate, i would follow the bbc recipe or the one that calls for smoked paprika.

you can, if you feel adventurous try toasting your paprika… taste before and after and don’t toast too long… or, even better, mix sweet paprika with chipotle chili powder… this will result in a nice smokiness that you won’t have to work too hard to get. it won’t be smoked paprika, but pretty close… after all it’s all capiscum.

later, on another day, after you’ve made a more elegant version, go for the fennel, it’ll probably taste not too shabby… even add the eggplant.

the reason i balk at the fennel and the cilantro is merely the taste. they aren’t bad, i like them both, but they are not paella. it’s my own fault for having an idea of what paella should taste and look like.

the reason i balk at the eggplant is because it’s too slimy for paella. it’ll just get slimier and slimier. i love eggplant in a myriad ways, but this just doesn’t seem to be all that delish.

so, if you have a large cast iron skillet or a dutch oven… make the bbc recipe… if you want to try the smoked paprika play around with paprika and chipotle…

thinking about all this this morning…

do the paprika and chipotle, typically you toast spices before they are ground.

Right. I might be able to get some unground spices—I’ll have to check the ethnic grocers and the Co-op; since there’s a big storm coming, I won’t be able to hit the good natural foods store in Kalona—but there’s no guarantee.

No longer being in possession of a cast iron skillet of any size (I once had several, and I regret having them no more) nor of a dutch oven, could a wok substitute, or is that too much of a bowl? Otherwise, I’ll have to find a dutch oven.

Otherwise, I too thought the BBC’s looked like the one to try.

no, you need a skillet, or a large saute pan would be better, even.

a paella pan is shallow and flat bottomed use that which most closely resembles this it’s about finding the right balance of liquid and rice and the right depth of rice.

a wok’s bowl would be too deep. but, you can try it… if your handle is oven safe.

Which it’s not. And I don’t trust our biggest skillet. Shoot. I hate the fact that our pans suck.

So I’ll look into getting one of those. I might not be able to make the paella this weekend.

you should never have gotten rid of your cast iron… then again, i’m a culinary freak and only use my cast iron.

what do you not trust about your biggest skillet? the handle you can always wrap in alumium foil to protect it from the heat.

On the cast iron, believe me: I know. I hardly remember the circumstances under which we got rid of them. I remember K didn’t like them at first, and I didn’t know better to stick up for them—I’d never cooked on anything else but copper (great) and cast iron, and so had no sense of how bad it could be. The pans stuck around a while, then I think they just didn’t move with us when we left our first apartment.

About the skillets we have now, I don’t trust its cheap teflon coating first, and second, I think the steel is too thin to conduct heat at all well. I don’t actually want teflon ever, but when we were unemployed we needed skillets, and these were what we could afford. Lately, we haven’t been cooking enough to push us to drop the money for good pans.

oh yeah, you don’t want teflon in the oven…

sounds like somebody’s gonna be hittin’ the kitchen stores next week…paella must be had!

You can get smoked paprika from Penzey’s. And while you’re at it get the “sandwich sprinkle,” which despite its unlikely name is a culinary miracle.

This Penzey’s? That is very nice! They have a whole section of “cheese seasonings”! And a blend called “Krakow Nights”! Even better, “Tsardust Memories”! What joy!