RECIPE BY LEANDRA ROUSE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAM EMMONS
Paella may feel like an intimidating, even out-of-reach dish reserved for fancy restaurants and faraway places. But this simple home recipe demystifies the Spanish speciality and turns it into an approachable weeknight dinner.
Paella is commonly made with a variety of seafood or game, but for this version we are making roasted seasonal vegetables the stars, creating a rich and flavorful dish. The recipe below is simple enough to make on a weeknight, but would also make a special main dish at your next dinner party.
The trick to easy home paella is to boost your boxed vegetable stock with your vegetable peels and stems (aka the “scraps”). Simmering the usually discarded ends of carrot, zucchini, and onion skins in the stock actually produces a more flavorful base to cook the rice in. Any short to medium grain rice will do, but if it’s available at your grocery store, try a Spanish rice grain like Calasparra. The best vegetable selection are those that are in season and ripe with flavor, as they will create the tastiest paella. Try to include our umami vegetables—highly savory flavored vegetables—such as eggplant, mushrooms, okra, or cauliflower. And don’t skimp on the garlic! In this recipe we roast a whole head of garlic and top the dish with caramelized cloves.
A large shallow cast iron pan helps to achieve the famous crispy rice bottom. This recipe starts on the stove top and ends in a 500 degree oven to recreate the effect of an open flame. Whatever pan you have available, be sure it is wide, shallow, and able to transfer from stove to oven.
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 zucchini, sliced into disks, top and tail scraps reserved
1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into strips
1 head garlic, slice ¼ inch off top to expose tops of garlic cloves, papery skin and end scraps reserved
½ bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed and tip scraps reserved
1 small eggplant, ends removed and sliced into disks
Pinch of saffron
1 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups short- or medium-grain rice (Spanish rice such as Calasparra preferred)
1 cup of chickpeas, canned and rinsed
1 tablespoon parsley for garnish
Begin by slicing your vegetables and reserving scraps such as onion ends, garlic tops, zucchini ends, and asparagus tips. Add the vegetable stock to a pot and simmer, along with all the vegetable scraps, for 20 minutes. Then strain, add a pinch of saffron, and reserve.
Wrap the garlic head in tin foil and roast along with the vegetables.
Add sliced vegetables to a baking sheet; toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper; and roast at 400 for
30 minutes. Flipping once, as needed, until vegetables are golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Increase the heat of the oven to 500 (or as close as your oven will get). And move the rack to the top of the oven. Keep tinfoil garlic bulb in the oven.
In the wide cast iron pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil and minced onion, and cook until translucent—for about 5 minutes. Next, add tomato paste and stir to combine. Then add the dry rice and toss evenly with onions and tomato, toasting until rice becomes translucent (for about one to three minutes). Then add the reserved vegetable stock, chickpeas, and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Carefully transfer the pan into the hot 500 degree oven.
Let it cook at 500 for approximately 20 minutes, or until the liquid is gone from the top of the rice. Carefully remove the hot pan and the roasted garlic bulb from the oven and set on the stove top to cool. Open the tinfoil and allow the garlic to cool down before removing the garlic cloves from papers. Layer the rice evenly with roast vegetables and roasted garlic cloves. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.
NUTRITION FACTS (PER SERVING):
Protein 7 g
Total fat 10 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Carbs 40 g
Fiber 7 g
Total sugars 8 g
Added sugars 1 g
Sodium 600 mg
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
Leandra is a Fitbit coach and culinary nutritionist who has 20 years of experience helping her clients find joy in their health journey. She practices functional fitness as a fitness coach in the Discover section of the Fitbit app, as well as through her in-home personal training business. As a nutritional consultant to chefs, Leandra helps to develop and market wellness products and concepts. Over her career, Leandra has worked extensively with top Bay Area companies such as Fitbit, Airbnb, Asana, Gap, bobbie, Tipsy, and more, to create engaging wellness content and education programs. Leandra lives with her husband and two young girls on the Big Island of Hawaii, and loves the challenge of feeding and moving with her babies.