Monday, February 17, 2014

Paella-style Orzo with Hearty Veggies

A good vegan paella is hard to come by. That never made sense to me, because it really wouldn't be hard to make the substitutions. I made one for a party a few years ago that was a big hit and wasn't hard to figure out. The problem with paella is the time commitment. All that checking in on the rice and adding stock at just the right interval and in the right amount. It can be a bit of a process and you have to stay on top of it. This dish is an effort to cheat at that, and I think it pulls it off quite well. Instead of constantly adding stock to arborio rice, we're using orzo, which cooks much faster. This makes the previously-laughable idea of a 30-minute paella (or at least a reasonable facsimile of one) a reality.

You can use just about any hearty vegetable you have on hand for this. Don't worry about it or overthink it. If you've got cauliflower, use it. Oyster mushrooms would be fantastic in this. A good field roast sausage would be great in it, too. It'd be hard to screw this up in any combination, really.

2 1/4 cups veggie broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp saffron threads
 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, juices drained and reserved
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 cup orzo pasta
1 carrot, chopped
8 green onions, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets

In a medium pot, bring the broth to a simmer. Stir in the garlic, seasoning, saffron and tomato liquid. Season with salt and pepper and keep hot.

Put some olive oil in a large skillet or a small dutch oven and put it over high heat. Add the tomatoes and sear them for a couple of minutes until they're browned and a little dry, then transfer them to a plate. Next, add the bell pepper and sear it the same way. Transfer it to the same plate when you're done.

Sprinkle in the orzo and stir it around for 30 seconds or so, until it starts to brown slightly.

Stir in the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Add the green onions, carrots, tomatoes and bell peppers, cover and let it simmer without stirring for 10 minutes or so.

Drop the broccoli on top around the top of the orzo, remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let it stand, covered, for other 10-15 minutes, until the orzo has absorbed the liquid and the broccoli has been steamed to the point where it's crisp-tender.

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