The New York Times featured an article recently titled “7 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed How We Shop for Food”. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Americans are spending more money at the supermarket today than at restaurants where other people prepare their food. Amidst this rise in home cooking, people are also moving to more complex ways of cooking, which includes a variety of grains, a staggering 600% increase in sales of yeast, and an uptick in demand for dried beans which has remained through the summer even after the initial “stock the pantry” craze of the spring. I admit, I purchased a 10 lb bag of rice that I’m stilling working on.
There is no downside to having a 10 lb bag of rice in the pantry. We love experimenting with deconstructed and mixed rice and grain bowls in our house. And my favorite kitchen gadget HANDS DOWN is my Instant Zest Rice and Grain Cooker. This little love has multiple settings that adjust timings for the types of rice or grain you are cooking. I literally switch it on to help the kids with remote learning or finish up a work Zoom or lock myself alone in the bathroom and cry and it makes perfectly hot, fluffy rice every time.
This week I thought I’d try a short-cut version of a paella swapping out the meat for a variety of Mediterranean vegetables. Traditional paella requires cooking the rice directly in a cast iron skillet and simmering it for a long period of time without turning it creating a thick, crunchy rice crust. This quick version infuses the rice with smoky and salty flavors directly in the rice cooker, and highlights all the complex flavors of smoky Spanish saffron, briny olives, sweet fennel, roasted peppers and hearty artichokes but with much less effort. So while this Vegetable Spanish Rice is not a traditional paella, I wasn’t at all disappointed with the results.
- 2 cups brown rice
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups jarred or whole artichokes packed in water, quartered, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 yellow and 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced thin
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and cut into thin slivers
- 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- 4 TB olive oil
- 2 TB lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
- Salt and pepper
In the rice cooker add rice, vegetable broth, tomatoes, paprika, and saffron. Stir to combine then close lid and turn on cooker. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss artichokes, peppers and olives with 2 TB olive oil on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast about 20 -25 minutes, or until vegetables are browned around the edges. In a large skillet or dutch oven (I used my Staub), add 2 TB olive oil and minced garlic with fennel and onion and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off heat, add the roasted vegetables and peas to that same dutch oven and combine. Stir in the hot cooked rice and top with fresh squeezed lemon juice. Serve hot.
My son and I both recently celebrated our birthdays and enjoyed the tail end of summer with beautiful views, great food, and home cooked meals.