Califonia Bountiful
Main Dish

Paella huertana

Spain's most popular dish is taken to the next level by mixing in fresh California-grown ingredients.

Chef Sergio Emilio Monleón
La Marcha, Berkeley

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1/2 heaping tsp. saffron threads or turmeric
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 lb. tomatoes, seeded and diced, or 1 (14-oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cups short grain rice (Valencia or Arborio)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1/2 cup purple cauliflower florets
1/2 cup chickpeas
Chopped parsley leaves, for garnish
Lemon wedges


In a small bowl, add saffron threads to 3 tbsp. warm water; let sit 10 minutes to steep. If using turmeric, skip this step and add turmeric with the other spices.

Heat olive oil or 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth over medium heat in a large, wide, flat-bottomed pan or paella pan (a Dutch oven or large pot also would suffice). Add onions and bell peppers; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes; cook another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. If you prefer softer vegetables, cook another 7 minutes or so, totaling 10 minutes after adding the latter ingredients.

Add rice, broth, saffron mixture or turmeric and salt to pan. Gently move vegetables around so the rice falls to the bottom of the pan as much as possible. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and cook at a continuous gentle boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Do not stir. If using a large paella pan (15 inches or so), rotate the pan over the burner occasionally to help cook the rice evenly. If liquids seem to boil off too quickly, add a little extra warm water or broth.

After 15 minutes of cooking, scatter asparagus, peas, cauliflower and chickpeas on top. Once 20 minutes is up, turn off heat and cover for 10 minutes with a kitchen towel or other cover. This will allow the rice to absorb any remaining liquid as well as steam the peas and warm the cauliflower and chickpeas and any other ingredients added. Once done, lightly fluff rice and serve garnished with chopped parsley. Pairs perfectly with a side of leafy greens and a big squeeze of lemon over the top. Enjoy straight from the pan or serve in individual bowls.

Serves 4, generously

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