I have never made paella before because I always assumed it was a difficult and time-consuming dish. The recipes I have seen for paella call for a lot of ingredients, usually cooked separately, including a large variety of seafood that would require a special trip to the market.
Paella with Tomatoes and Sausage
But then I ran across Mark Bittman‘s recipe for paella in his excellent book Food Matters (which is full of easy, adaptable recipes suitable for weeknight cooking). His recipe gets paella on the table in 30 minutes (a little longer if you use brown rice), and while it does call for shrimp, the recipe itself is so adaptable that you can pretty much make it with whatever you have on hand. I omitted the shrimp myself — my husband is allergic — and just made it with chorizo sausage, and it was very tasty. It is probably not terribly authentic, but quick and tasty is more improtant when I’m cooking during the week. Next time we might try it with sausage and mussels. Because the vegetables can be varied depending on what’s in season, this recipe is sure to make it into my regular rotation.
Some notes: Probably the only essential ingredient in paella is rice. I used basmati rice for faster cooking time. If you use brown rice, double the cooking time. Generally, paella calls for saffron, an ingredient I do not keep on hand because of its expense and because I am just not all that fond of it. I used smoked Spanish paprika and the flavor was great. I think you could omit all the meat and have a lovely one-pot vegetarian dish.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings
- 2 cups chicken stock or water
- about 1 lb. of any vegetables that can be roasted, such as tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, mushrooms, zucchini or a mixture, cut into chunks
- salt, pepper and olive oil to taste
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika or other paprika
- 2 chorizo or other sausage links, sliced (optional, or substitute shrimp or mussels)
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 cup peas
- fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Warm the stock in a saucepan. Toss the vegetables with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Heat a large oven-proof skillet with a little olive oil over medium. Add the onion and saute until limp. (You can add other aromatics according to your tastes; garlic or chiles would be nice.)
Stir in the tomato paste, paprika and sausage. Saute, stirring, until the sausage is browned. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute, until translucent. Stir in the stock and peas. If you are using seafood, add it at this point.
Remove the pan from the heat and place the vegetables on top of the rice. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. (If you are using brown rice, increase the cooking time to 30 minutes.) Check frequently and add a little more stock if necessary to keep the rice from drying out. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit about 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley to serve.
Adapted from a recipe in Food Matters by Mark Bittman.
There’s no denying it. Despite the hotter-than-Hades August that seemed like it would never end, fall has arrived. The cool, crisp days with no humidity almost make you forget that we’re still in the midst of a record drought. Who needs rain when you have glorious blue sky and it’s 72 degrees out?
So why am I posting a quintessential summer recipe just when fall is upon us? Well, I spent all summer eating gazpacho, and I finally nailed down the recipe to my satisfaction, so I wanted to share it. If you’re lucky and happen to have one last harvest of tomatoes — as I’m still hoping for — gazpacho is a great way to use them up.
Gazpacho is the national soup of Spain, but as it’s gotten more popular, the name has been applied to almost any cold soup. For my tastes, gazpacho requires three things to properly be called “gazpacho.” First, it should be made with vinegar, preferably a good sherry vinegar; the taste impact is worth the extra cost. Second, it should have a base of tomatoes and cucumbers; other vegetables can be added, but these should not be omitted. Finally, it should be thickened with French-style bread. I used to make gazpacho without the bread, but the result was more like a chunky V-8. Adding the bread gives it a wonderfully thick, smooth texture that transforms it into soup.
Aside from those rules, gazpacho is a versatile recipe that can accommodate whatever you have in the crisper. Enjoy.
Time to make: 15 minutes + chilling time
Yields: 2 servings
- Combine in a food processor or blender:
- 2-3 tomatoes, diced, some reserved for garnish
- 1 cucumber, peeled and diced, some reserved for garnish
- 1 red bell pepper, diced, some reserved for garnish (optional)
- 1 shallot or ¼ red onion, minced (optional)
- 1 mild chile, minced (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 slices French-style bread (day-old is okay), crust removed, torn into chunks
- 2 tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup water or tomato juice
- Blend until smooth.
- Chill about 1 hour.
- Before serving, garnish with the reserved vegetables and other garnishes as desired (croutons, scallions, hard-boiled eggs and avocado all make good garnishes).
- Drizzle with a little more olive oil to serve.
A Spanish tortilla is very similar to an Italian frittata, but its defining characteristic is the layer of thinly sliced, fried potatoes that form its foundation — and make it extra good, in my opinion. This dish is not only very simple, but it’s also extremely versatile. It works well at room temperature, cut into small wedges and served as tapas, as I did. It also tastes good hot, for a light dinner or breakfast. And it keeps well. You can even take it on a picnic. Of course, this is a basic recipe that leaves lots of room for interpretation.
Serves: 6 as an appetizer
Time to make: ~45 minutes
Keeps: 3 days in the refrigerator
What you need:
- 2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
- 6 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 eggs
- fresh parsley, salt and pepper
- 12-inch oven-proof skillet
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Heat half the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high
- Add the potatoes in a single layer and cook until well browned on both sides, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes
- Remove the potatoes to a plate
- Heat the remaining oil in the same pan
- Saute the onion and bell pepper slices until limp and starting to brown, about 10 minutes
- Return the potatoes to the pan with the garlic and saute briefly
- Reduce the heat to medium
- Spread the potatoes and other vegetables in a single layer in the pan
- Beat the eggs with the parsley, salt and pepper, and pour over the potato-onion mixture
- Let cook, stirring lightly, until mostly set
- Transfer to the oven and cook until the top is set, about 10 minutes
I served this chicken salad at my tapas party last weekend, and it was a big hit. Not only was it a vibrant red color, but it tasted great too. Of course, the moment of embarassment came when one of my guests asked me how I had gotten the roasted chicken so moist. I had to confess that I hadn’t done it — the local grocery store had! Yes, I had used a store-bought roasted chicken breast to save time.
Well, why not? It cuts down on the stress of party prep. The roasted red pepper dressing added all the flavor punch I needed, and it made the dish really unique. It was a good shortcut, one I’ll use again (although next time, I may not confess to it).
Spanish-style Chicken Salad
Serves: 6 as an entree
Time to make: ~15 minutes with pre-cooked chicken
To make the dressing, puree together:
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 cup roasted red peppers
- 1 garlic clove
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pull the chicken off a bone-in, roasted, whole chicken breast in shreds, removing the skin
- Toss the chicken with the dressing and the rest of the salad ingredients:
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. capers
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- minced parsley
Notes: This recipe was adapted from one published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. All amounts are approximate and subject to the cook’s whim.
I went to the dentist today and they didn’t find anything to get concerned about, so it was a red letter day around here. My whole goal for today was to get through my dentist appointment without feeling bad about myself, and I did it. When you set your goals to be real teeny, it is amazingly easy to accomplish them.
I am celebrating by making pesto. The basil plant out back still has tons of leaves on it, even though it is almost Halloween, and so pesto fest is upon us. Pesto is a great way to take care of all the fresh herbs at the end of the summer, if you don’t mind cleaning your food processor a bunch of times.
What can you do with pesto? Well, I’m glad you asked. I like to spread it on little toasts and eat it as a snack or toss it with some hot pasta and a little ricotta cheese. I also like to freeze it in ice cube trays. Each cube holds about 1 tbsp. of pesto (magic!). They keep in the freezer all winter, and you just throw a cube or two into some soup, rice or a stew when you want to add some potent fresh herb flavor.
Typically, pesto is made with basil and pine nuts, but with the power of substitution, you can make it with any herb-nut combination. You can also leave out the nuts altogether, and the cheese, and the garlic–and just have pure preserved herbs. The formula is simple — it’s all based on two’s:
- 2 cups basil (or any other herb or a combo of herbs)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted (or any other nut)
- ½ cup Parmesan, grated
Puree all together until smooth.
But why stop there? Pesto makes a great dip if you throw in some additions. My personal favorite is adding a handful of rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, but you could also try roasted mushrooms or roasted red peppers. Or maybe mix it with some soft cheese.