Califonia Bountiful
Main Dish

Salinas Valley mushroom and artichoke paella

Paella is a Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice combined with vegetables and a variety of meats and shellfish. This vegetarian version was created by Monterey County chef Ken "Cookie" Goebel to support the Blue Zones Project.

Chef Ken "Cookie" Goebel
On behalf of the Blue Zones Project

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2 cups seeded and diced yellow bell pepper
1 cup seeded and diced green bell pepper
1 cup diced sweet onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 large yellow or red heirloom tomato, chopped
1/2 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil

Mushroom broth
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
7 cups vegetable broth
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. mushroom base
1 gram saffron threads
Salt and pepper, to taste

Slow-roasted tomatoes
2 small heirloom tomatoes
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms or any combination of other mushroom varieties
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 (6-oz.) package Monterey Farms Natural ArtiHearts
1 cup sofrito (see recipe)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup bomba paella rice (a short-grain variety prized for its ability to absorb liquid)
4 1/2 cups mushroom broth (see recipe)
1 cup reserved broth, if needed

6 slices roasted tomatoes (see recipe)
A few strips piquillo peppers
1/4 cup peas
A few sprigs parsley
6 lemon wedges
Or other options, as you wish 


For sofrito: In a food processor, blend together all ingredients until slightly coarse, like the consistency of pesto. Season to taste with salt. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated. Recipe calls for 1 cup; the remainder can be frozen for a future use. Traditional Spanish sofrito is mild, but you can use hot peppers if you wish. To save time, you can buy prepared sofrito.

For mushroom broth: Using a coffee-bean grinder, pulverize dry mushrooms into a powder. Place in a stockpot with broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Chef's note: The saffron's bright yellow color with the reddish paprika will make a beautifully colored bomba rice. Don't expect a bright yellow rice unless you eliminate the paprika. 

For tomatoes: Slice tomatoes 1/4-inch thick. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Toss with tomato slices. Place on a parchment-lined pan and roast at 200 degrees for 4 hours. Make early the same day or the day prior.

For paella: Using a 12-inch cast iron pan, sauté mushrooms in oil on all sides until liquid cooks off. Remove from pan and hold.

Using the same pan and any residual liquid and bits from mushrooms, deglaze pan with wine. Add onions and peppers and sweat them until onions are nearly transparent. Return mushrooms to pan and add ArtiHearts, 1 cup sofrito and bay leaf. Cook and stir for 2 minutes

Stir in rice and 4 1/2 cups mushroom broth. Bring to a boil, stirring once. Transfer pan to a 350-degree oven or barbecue and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust (called a socarrat) forms on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Do not stir any more. Drizzle additional broth on the hot spots and if rice shows dry spots.

Test rice for doneness. When cooked, garnish and cook 2 minutes longer to heat garnishes and create/anchor the socarrat. Chef's tips: For the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, use some or all the topping suggestions to garnish the top of the paella. Garnishes should be ready to eat and need only warming. Other options include asparagus spears, long green beans, or slices of yellow squash or zucchini. Arrange decoratively.

A note on socarrat: The socarrat is considered the most delectable bit of paella. It is the crunchy, golden-brown rice crust that forms along the bottom and sides of the pan as the rice cooks. Depending on the heat and moisture, the socarrat either naturally develops throughout cooking (another reason not to stir) or the heat is turned up for the last 60 seconds of cooking to gently caramelize and toast the rice on the bottom of the pan. This can be avoided if you prefer by keeping the paella moist.

Serves 6

Photo: © 2021 Richard Green

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