I remember the first time I tried paella, OMG, it was absolutely phenomenal. I couldn’t get enough of it. It was paella that introduced me to this wonderful spice Saffron:
The spice originates from a flower called crocus sativus—commonly known as the “saffron crocus.” It is believed that saffron originated and was first cultivated in Greece, but today the spice is primarily grown in Iran, Greece, Morocco, and India…
Saffron is extremely subtle and fragrant. The slightly sweet, luxurious taste is totally enigmatic—it’s tricky to describe but instantly recognizable in a dish. As annoying as it is to say, you know it when you taste it.
Each flower produces only three threads (stigmas) of saffron, and it blooms for only one week each year. The saffron must be harvested—by hand!—in the mid-morning, when the flowers are still closed in order to protect the delicate stigmas inside. It takes about 1,000 flowers to produce just one ounce of saffron. That’s why you’ll pay $10 to $13 per gram for the real deal. To make sure you’re getting the best stuff, take a sniff—you want saffron that smells a bit like sweet hay. It should also have all red stigmas, no yellow stamens.
Saffron is truly one of my loves. I have even added it to ice cream and topped it with roasted pistachios, inspired by my friends from Morocco. In my opinion paella is not paella without saffron. I love making this dish out home and decided to try a vegan version and it didn’t disappoint. The great thing about this dish is you can add your favorite vegetables and switch it up each time. Today, it’s asparagus and peas and maybe next time cauliflower and broccoli florets.
I am always looking for creative ways to add more vegetables into my family’s diet. I hope you will enjoy this version, but however you make your paella, always remember to Set the Table with Love.
3 tablespoons olive oil
One onion, chopped
3 clove garlic, chopped
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced
10 -12 asparagus spears
4 large, vine ripened tomatoes peeled and chopped
12 ounces short grain paella or risotto rice
4 cups of hot vegetable broth
8 ounces peas, frozen or fresh
A few threads of saffron crumbled ( I use about 8)
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
lemon wedges and fresh herbs( parsley or cilantro), to serve
Heat olive oil in a paella pan or large white fry pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for five minutes, stirring, over low heat until onions start to caramelize.
Add red bell peppers and asparagus and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes form a sauce.
Add rice to pan, stir to coat in the sauce, and cook for 5 minutes. Slowly add the hot vegetable stock along with the saffron, peas,rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir once, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes until stock is absorbed, stirring the dish as little possible. If you have too much liquid at the end of the dish, turn up the heat to boil down some of the water, but watch it, so it does burn at the bottom.
Serve with lemon wedges and chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve with crunchy bread.