Spanish chef José Andrés remarks in his new cookbook Made in Spain (Clarkson Potter) that many American friends tell him they can’t find any vegetarian dishes on menus at Spanish restaurants. That’s odd, he responds. “When you visit Spanish markets, you see vegetables everywhere, so what is going on?” He wryly suggests that his American friends “are looking at the wrong parts of the menu.”
Andrés grew up in the Asturias region of northern Spain and is a protégé of Ferran Adrià of the renowned El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona. He now lives in Washington, D.C., where he oversees seven restaurants in the metropolitan area. This is his all-vegetable version of a classic Spanish paella.
Recipe of the week
Paella de Verduras (Vegetable Paella)
¼ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
8 baby yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1 cup eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
3 cups cauliflower florets
¼ lb fresh wild mushrooms, such as chanterelle or oyster, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
2 ripe plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups flat mineral or filtered water
1 cup Spanish Bomba or Calasparra rice
2 oz fresh or frozen green peas
Sea salt to taste
2 oz piquillo peppers, cut into ½-inch-thick strips
¼ cup sofrito (see recipe)
Heat olive oil in 13-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add squash; brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side. Add eggplant and cauliflower; cook 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook 2 more minutes. Stir in plum tomatoes and sofrito; cook 1 minute. Pour in white wine; let it reduce by half, about 2 minutes.
Crumble saffron into pan; pour in mineral water. Increase heat to high and bring to boil; let mixture boil 2 to 3 minutes. Add rice and peas; stir until well combined. Reduce heat to medium-high, season to taste with salt, cook 4 minutes. Do not stir rice again, as this can cause it to cook unevenly. After 4 minutes, reduce heat to low and lay pepper strips on top of paella; cook another 7 minutes. Remove paella from heat; cover with clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with spoonfuls of allioli. Serves 4 to 6.
Sofrito (Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce)
10 ripe plum tomatoes
1½ cups Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
4 small Spanish onions, finely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sweet pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
3 bay leaves
Slice tomatoes in half. Place grater over mixing bowl. Rub cut surface of tomatoes over grater until all flesh is grated. Discard skins. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions, sugar, salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. You want the onions to caramelize; if they get too dark, add ½ teaspoon water to keep from burning. Stir in tomato paste, pimentón, and bay leaves; cook for another 20 minutes over medium heat. Sofrito is ready when tomato has broken down and deepened in color, and oil has separated from sauce. Discard bay leaves.