Paella—a Spanish rice dish—is traditionally made with seafood, chicken or sausage, and a seasoning base of saffron and tomato. But in this vegetarian version, I'm swapping the meat and fish for fresh produce and legumes. It's a veggie-filled dinner perfect for any night of the week.
The cast iron skillet comes in handy for these all-in-one type dishes — everything is assembled, cooked, and served from the same dish! I used bright red and yellow peppers, green beans, artichoke hearts, peas, and garbanzo beans to make the dish vibrant and flavorful. I also used brown rice instead of the traditional white rice to add some extra nutrition to this weeknight meal; parboiling the rice helps speed up the cooking.
Vegetable Paella with Chickpeas
1 cup short-grain brown rice (See Recipe Note)
Hefty pinch saffron (about 8 strands)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup crushed tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon hot paprika
1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
3 artichoke hearts, sliced (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Salt and pepper
Bring 3 cups of water and a hefty pinch of salt to a boil, add the rice, and cook for about about 20 minutes, or until the rice begins to soften. Drain and set aside. (Par-boiling the brown rice speeds up the overall cooking time.)
Combine saffron threads and 3 tablespoons of warm water in a small bowl and set aside. Bring the broth to a simmer, then reduce the heat and keep at a low simmer until needed.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large cast iron skillet, and sauté the onions until soft and fragrant. Add the garlic slices and peppers. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Mix in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, hot paprika, saffron threads (along with the water), and season generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper. Let it cook for a few minutes.
Make sure to have your vegetable broth simmering nearby. Fold in the green beans, artichoke slices, and chickpeas. Then stir in the par-boiled, drained rice. Ladle the simmering broth over the rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has evaporated. A few minutes before the rice is fully cooked, scatter the peas over top. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.
- Paella with Traditional White Rice: If you'd prefer, use a traditional short-grain white rice for this dish, like Bomba or Valencia. If using white rice, there's no need to par-boil and you only need 3 cups of broth.