Oyster Mushroom + Squash Blossom Paella

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The first time I had paella goes way, way back. I was living in Washington DC; an eager young staffer working on Capitol Hill, having the time of her life. One of my colleagues (on the other side of the aisle no less…things were pretty civilized back then), hosted a paella party. It was a casual event that was completely elevated by the food. There were huge pans full of paella cooked outside and lots of sangria.

I’ve loved paella ever since. And have enjoyed hosting dinner parties over the years with a spanish/tapas theme. Although paella is traditionally made with seafood, it lends itself well to all kinds of vegetables. Recently, I tried out Gwenyth Paltrow’s Vegetable Paella recipe from her cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. It’s amazing! I improvised a bit and made it my own by adding oyster mushrooms and squash blossoms from the farmers market.

Gwenyth swears by Bomba rice for her paella and I’m taking her word for it. It’s a nice short grain white spanish rice that you can find at Whole Foods or maybe a specialty food shop. I think it’s worth the effort to find it. Houston friends, I got mine at Central Market.

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I started prepping for the paella in the afternoon. It was nice to have all of the veggies chopped and ready to go.  I seasoned vegetable broth with saffron and pimenton (a spanish paprika that usually comes in a tin can) ahead of time too. This made making the paella a breeze.  When the time came, I sauteed all the vegetables in stages until they began to soften. Gwenyth recommends adding the rice to the vegetables in a cross pattern because this is how she learned to do it. So this is how I did it and does make it easier to stir in the rice, I think.

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Gwenyth includes a recipe for a spicy vegan mayonnaise to serve with the paella and I highly recommend making this. It’s sooooooo good. Enjoy!

Oyster Mushroom + Squash Blossom Paella

Adapted from My Father’s Daughter

Serves 6-8

1 quart vegetable stock (homemade or store bought – I used No Chicken Chicken Broth)

10 cloves garlic, divided: 4 crushed and 6 minced

Large pinch of saffron

1/2 tsp pimenton

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup spanish olive oil

1 sweet yellow onion, finely diced

1 large tomato

1 each red, yellow and green pepper, chopped

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 can artichoke bottoms, drained and chopped

1-2 cups pattypan squash or zucchini, chopped

2 cups oyster mushrooms, chopped

2 cups Bomba rice or other short grain white rice

1 cup squash blossoms (optional)

1 cup frozen peas

3 lemons, 2 cut into wedges

Pimenton Aioli (recipe follows)

Combine the stock with 4 cloves of crushed garlic in a large saucepan and boil over high heat for about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and add saffron and pimenton, simmer for another 10 minutes to combine flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add more saffron or pimenton, if desired. Keep warm over low heat.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium-high heat and saute onion and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Coarsely grate in the tomato, stir together and cook another 2 minutes. Add the peppers, artichokes and mushrooms and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. At this point the vegetable mixture can be set aside for up to 2 hours or refrigerated overnight.

When you are ready to make the paella, heat the pan with the vegetables over high heat and pour the rice into the pan in an even cross pattern. Add the stock and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Arrange the peas and squash blossoms on top and simmer until the rice is cooked through, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pan with aluminum foil and let rest for 15 minutes. Squeeze juice from one lemon over the paella. Serve with lemon wedges and Pimenton Aioli.

Pimenton Aioli

Makes 1/2 cup

1/2 cup Vegenaise

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 tsp pimenton

1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Sea salt + pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning to taste.

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