Shrimp and Saffron Paella
Once upon a lifetime ago, cookbooks ruled the kitchen. Not Google, not Pinterest, not the proliferation of food blogs being done by everyone including the occasional unemployed newspaper editor.
The modern approach to SEO-targeted dinner planning (search term: recipe black beans quinoa chipotle) wins hands-down for variety and speed.
But cookbooks are a very special journey of discovery.
I credit most of my kitchen and meal-planning skills (as well as my love of vegetables) to grade school pal Colette and Canadian cookbook author Anne Lindsay. The former bought me two of the latter’s five cookbooks as a 1987 wedding shower gift.
Today, all five of Lindsay’s cookbooks (over time, I bought the other three) made their way out of the cupboard because I didn’t had no specific ingredients in mind. Nothing to plug into a Google search.
I knew I wanted vegetables, but not salad. I didn’t want meat, I didn’t want soup or pasta. And none of my “kitchen castoffs” were providing any inspiration, either.
Fortified with a cup of tea, I started flipping through the chapters on Meatless Main Dishes. (And, holy lentils! I know where I’ll be checking next time legumes are on the menu.) Descriptions and full-colour photos of pastas, bean casseroles, quiche and frittatas, stews, couscous, bulgar, rice and more.
I settled on the Vegetarian Paella from 1998’s New Light Cooking. In terms of my #100daysofcooking project goal — that is, to use castoff kitchen ingredients as often as possible — this recipe hit a motherlode: saffron, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas and the entire remains of a bag of arborio rice.
So, we’ll say today’s kitchen castoff is the rice.
But really, today remains an ode to cookbooks.
(The paella, by the way, is a knock-out. At Dan’s request, I made the variation that used shrimp, instead of chickpeas and corn in the vegetarian version.)
Kitchen castoff used
Arborio rice (plus a big nod to New Light Cooking, by Anne Lindsay, published in 1998)
This is how we did it
The list looks long, but don’t be afraid! Once you’ve done all the chopping and measuring, it comes together super fast.
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cups Arborio rice (or other short grain rice, such as Valencia)
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 – 1 pound shrimp
- 4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 10 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped (dry-packed are recommended, but I used ones packed in oil)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 artichoke pieces, chopped (recipe recommends using a whole 14-ounce can of artichokes. We only had marinated on hand, so I scaled back but but if you like artichokes, go for it!)
- 1 red pepper, roasted and sliced
- 1/2 – 1 cup frozen peas (recipe recommends a full cup, I opted for less)
- 1/4 cup black olives, pitted and halved
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Before you do anything else, roast the red pepper. I cut mine in half and remove the stem and seeds, brush with olive oil and put in a 425 degree oven until it starts to blister and blacken. Turn a few times. When your kitchen starts to smell like heaven, they’re done (about 30-40 minutes). I’ve read that some cooks will put them in a paper bag to finish steaming as they cool. I left them in the cooking pan, covered with a tea towel. Once cooled, remove the skin (that will also get rid of most of the black bits), then slice.
Put the saffron into 2 tbsps very hot water and let it sit for at least 15 minutes, but as long as an hour.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet. (I used an enamelled cast-iron French oven.) Cook the onions, garlic and carrots for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and stir to mix.
Add the shrimp, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaves and saffron. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add the artichokes, red pepper, peas and olives, then cook, stirring, over low heat for about 5 minutes or until all the vegetables are heated through.
Add cilantro, if you are using it (I didn’t), salt and pepper to taste.
Wondering what the “Kitchen Castoff” reference is all about? Here’s the explainer describing my 100 day project
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