Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spinach Paella with Lemon - vegan & gluten free

Some of you lovely people who took my survey last month indicated that you wanted to see more savory dishes. Apparently you also have trouble answering the age old question, "What's for dinner?" You may have noticed this month that there have been more non-dessert recipes appearing here, like chili, pasta, a snack, and a salad

I have also done some revamping of the recipe index, and I've gone back through my old posts checking and updating tags. The big addition to the index is at the very bottom, where, if none of the titles caught your fancy, you can browse by tag. I have you all hooked up to view recipes by diet, dish, event, or season. So, for example, you can look at all recipes I've tagged as dairy free, or breakfast, or birthday, or winter. Have a look and tell me what you think. I love comments or emails and always respond!

I have found that I've enjoyed the challenge! It's been fun to try out new recipes, and it's helped diversify dinner for me and Mr. Official Taster. This paella recipe is both easy and delicious. There's also some downtime involved (i.e. when it's in the oven), which I used to panic because I didn't have an idea for a side and then give up and decide we didn't really need one. Salads are my go-to side, but since there was already spinach involved, I was stymied. Clearly, I need to branch out. Good thing there are still a few cupcakes.

Spinach Paella with Lemon - vegan & gluten free
adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

This worked well as our main course, but it would also work as a side. If you're having a meat dish for dinner, the rich and smokey flavor means it can hold its own. 
As written, this recipe served two of us for dinner. Simply double to make 4-6 servings.

1 C brown rice*
2 C vegetable stock or water
Approx. 1/2 lb fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
Minced zest of 1 lemon
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 tsp smoked or other paprika
Minced parsley for garnish

In a small pot, bring several cups of salted water to a boil. Stir in the brown rice. The water should return to a boil almost immediately, and turn the heat down so that the rice is boiling along nicely. Don't stir the rice again, and leave it to cook for 12ish minutes. Pour off the water and reserve the rice. You can do this step up to an hour before you're ready to make the paella- it doesn't matter if the rice is warm when you add it.

Preheat the oven to 450F. Warm the stock in a pan. Toss the spinach in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, lemon zest, and salt+pepper.

Warm about 2 Tbsp olive oil in an oven-proof 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Depending on your stove, you may need to turn the heat down to medium so things don't brown or cook too fast. Stir in the tomato paste, saffron if you're using it, and paprika and cook for another minute or two. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's shiny. (I know this sounds strange, but it really does get shiny, trust me). Pour in the warm stock, turn off the heat, and stir until just combined.

Put the spinach on top of the mixture (it's supposed to be fluffy. It will cook down) and scrape out the bottom of the bowl (you wouldn't want to miss any zest!). Put the pan in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 15 minutes. Check to see if the rice is dry and just tender. If yours is still somewhat wet like mine has been, cook for another 5 minutes. If it's dry but the rice is uncooked, add a small amount of stock, wine, or water. When the rice is ready, turn off the oven and let it sit for at least 5 minutes and up to 15 minutes.

Carefully (it's very hot! and heavy!) remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put the pan over high heat on the stove for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

*You can, of course, use white rice. If you do, you can skip the precooking step and add it directly to the pan.

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