smoked paprika

vegetable paella

by Heguiberto on July 10, 2013

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty attacks again! His vegetable paella is divine. It is full of color and flavors. If pilaf and paella have the same linguistic root, then I think this vegetable paella must be either an early progenitor of both or perhaps the modern trans-national child of the pair, as it not only uses saffron threads, but also turmeric and chili powders common to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: incredible! And then there’s the sherry… Wow.

vegetable paella

vegetable paella

Yotam recommends using Calasparra rice but to be honest I have never heard of it before, so couldn’t even begin to think of where to find it. At any given time my rice pantry will always have few different varieties, so I made do with what I had. My choice was Thai jasmine rice. I selected this kind because I’ve made successful paella before with it. He also recommends using freshly shelled fava beans which would have been great but I was not able to find them in the market. Instead I substituted them for a fresh frozen shelled bag of edamame.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan. So flavorful, your meat eating loved ones will enjoy it too.

vegetable paella

6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion sliced thinly
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
½ fennel bulb cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
¾ cup sherry
1 container of saffron threads (0.020oz)
2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 ½ cups vegetable stock – hot
thin half-moon-shaped lemon slices
4 tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
8 halves of grilled artichokes, preserved in oil, drained
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 pint of mixed small heirloom tomatoes, halved
~ 2tbsp chopped parsley
Kosher salt

You need a paella pan or a similar large shallow pan for the dish. On high heat, add olive oil followed by the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sweet peppers and fennel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Peppers and fennel will soften a bit but still hold their crunch.

Mix in turmeric, bay leaves, paprika. Add rice and mix it again so rice gets some coloring. Stir in saffron and sherry, continue to cook long enough for the sherry juices to be absorbed/evaporated. Add vegetable stock, and kosher salt to taste, lower the temperature and cook for about 18 minutes. Liquid will be almost fully absorbed by the rice. To prevent the rice from breaking refrain from stirring while cooking. Turn off the heat.

Tuck in olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, then sprinkle with parsley. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with some extra virgin oil and serve.


stuffed cabbage drama

by Heguiberto on July 28, 2009

Stuffed cabbage is another great dish that is a result of the cultural confluence of some East European countries and Asia Minor. Aleks prepared it for our Macedonian parté recently. I believe that in this dish Europe is represented by the preserved cabbage and Asia by the rice. The blending of cultures is so romantic! I really love it.

stuffed cabbage Macedonian style

stuffed cabbage Macedonian style

It was a bit of a pain to make not only because it is labor intensive but also because it requires a lot of whole preserved cabbage leaves. We only found one jar of whole leaves after much peregrination through stores specialized in Eastern European and Middle Eastern foods. John and Aleks looked in the East Bay and Steven and I here in San Francisco. Are these a seasonal product or what? I thought that the whole point of preserving the cabbage was to make it available later in the year!?!

Well I must confess I enjoy the task of searching for obscure ingredients. It is such a joy when you finally find them, even when you realize that you can only take a bit home. It’s sort of a challenge. This time we were not the lucky ones. I think we exchanged at least half a dozen emails with the East Bay-ers, not to mention phone calls, on the subject of the “cabbage DRAMA.” How could we make this dish without the essential ingredient?
Stuffed cabbage goes by various aliases, depending on the country where it’s made. In Macedonia it’s called Sarma; in Turkey, Domae; in Poland, Golumpki. Here in the Bay Area it should probably be called Cabbage Drama, which rhymes with Sarma which gets us back to the Macedonian party! Yeah!!

Stuffed Cabbage Drama

Here’s the recipe:

this is the cabbage that we used

this is the cabbage that we used

2 cup of rice, mixed brown and white long grain
1 can (8 to 12oz) of fire roasted tomatoes in chunks with juices
1 cup of pine nuts
2 small chopped onions
1 tbsp smoked paprika (Hungarian)
1 can preserved cabbage with its juice (whole leaves)
1 can preserved cabbage cut up
Salt and fresh black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

How to:

Sauté onions in olive oil on medium heat till opaque in color. Add rice, pine nuts, paprika, salt and black pepper and stir. Add tomatoes. Cook on low heat till juices are absorbed. Rice will be 1/3 of the way cooked. Turn heat off. Let cool a bit, so you can handle the rice to stuff the cabbage.

Place a thin layer of cut preserved cabbage at the bottom of a pressure cooker. Drizzle some olive oil over it. Make the Cabbage Drama by stuffing each leaf with a portion of the rice mix. Place rolls tightly together at the bottom of the pan. You can pile them a bit if necessary. Partially submerge the rolls with juices from cabbage brine. Cover cooker.

Turn the heat to max, wait for 4 whistles of your pressure cooker, turn temp to low and cook for about 5-8 min. The rice will swell inside the cabbage, absorb most of the juices and hold everything together. Bon apétit!

Note: taste brine before using in the recipe. If it’s too salty use less of it and top up the pressure cooker with good ol’water.

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