12 February 2013

Maggie's Vegan Paella

I spent some time living in Spain one summer during my teens. Although much of it was awesome, one of the coolest things was eating paella with my extended Spanish family on the weekends. Back then I was still an omnivore, so the traditional paella fillings of chorizo and seafood were fine (though I didn't eat the seafood ones much). Since going vegan, I'd not had paella in ages, until two occasions reasonably close to one another. First, Shana and I celebrated a friend's engagement at a restaurant serving vegan paella. Second, my aunt made some after hearing me talk about how much I wanted to recreate the flavors I remembered. The first dish (at the restaurant) was good, but not paella. The second dish (my aunt's) was awesome, but I needed to figure out a way to recreate it. That same aunt (and uncle) ended up giving us a paella pan as a gift, so I've been perfecting since then.


The other night we had a friend over for dinner. She wasn't sure she'd ever had paella, but she said was more than willing to try it. She loved it. But in all honestly, I've not fed this to a single person - omnivorous, vegan, or in between - who hasn't loved it. That's awesome since I think it's delicious. It isn't a particularly hard dish to make, either, but it does require a few items that you may not have laying around, such as vegan chorizo, saffron, and a paella pan (oh, and a gas grill will make your life easier). 

Let's talk a bit about vegan chorizo (and other faux meats). In a well-stocked Whole Foods-esque store, you're likely to find multiple varieties of vegan chorizo. Whichever brand you happen to choose, they will be made with a lot of wheat gluten. Wheat gluten is the protein part of wheat and it's what makes bread chewy. In addition, it is often used to make faux meat products. Clearly, if you are gluten-free or gluten-intolerant, stay away from anything including wheat gluten or "seitan" (say-TAHN). However, if you do/can eat wheat gluten, seitan is going to be a great aid to you in the veg*n kitchen. It has a much "meatier" texture than tofu does and holds together far better, as well. Because of that, it's a great replacement for meat in a lot of dishes (think stroganoff, stir fries, etc.). You can often buy pre-made seitan at the store or you can make your own (I do!). Anyway, enough jabber, how about some food?! :)


Maggie's Vegan Paella
Ingredients
1/2 c. olive oil
2 med. onions, diced
5 cloves garlic
2 c. paella rice
2 bell peppers (any color), sliced in long pieces
1 c. sugar snap peas, ends removed
1 package chorizo-flavored seitan
1/2 c. blanched sliced almonds
4 c. veggie broth (I use "No Chicken")
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 tsp. oregano
4 oz. crushed tomatoes (I actually use this)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Add crushed tomatoes and spices (crunch the saffron threads a bit in your hand) to broth, set aside.
2. Add the oil, onions, and chorizo to the paella pan over medium heat; DO NOT PREHEAT THE PAN! Saute until onions are soft. Add the garlic and saute another few minutes.
3. Add the rice, saute briefly, then add the broth mixture.
4. Stir to combine, but then do NOT stir any more, close the lid of the grill.
5. Cook for 15 minutes, then gently press the veggies and almonds into the top of the rice - still no stirring! Spin the pan if you have a hot spot on your grill.
6. Cook for 10 more minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed with the lid of the grill closed.

Helpful Hints
  • A paella pan is a huge help to this dish. Be aware of the care instructions for your paella pan! If you do not have a paella pan (or do not want to invest in one), a large and deep skillet (12 inches across or so) will also work for this recipe, but then cook it on the stove.
  • You can cook paella on the stove. It may take a bit longer and make sure to cover it when the recipe calls for the grill to be closed. Also, the temptation to stir will be greater; resist!
  • Any brand of veg*n chorizo will do. I use Upton's Naturals (see below), which comes as crumbles, but some varieties will allow you to create slices. Either's fine. 
  • I use a brand of rice from Spain that is labeled "paella" rice (see below). You do not need to use a specific paella rice, any short grained rice will work (think Arborio). 

2 comments:

  1. Love that you love it, and the pics are awesome!

    the aunt :-)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks!! And it really is delicious!

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