?Ever since the first time I traveled to Spain and followed expert advice to go to a paella restaurant south of Valencia, I?ve been making the dish at home fairly regularly. It?s such a perfect dinner party centerpiece: it feeds?and wows?a crowd, can be made ahead and served at room temperature, and you really need only a salad, a good wine, and perhaps some nice crusty bread to complete the meal. Unlike popular misconception, paella doesn?t require seafood, and there are many, many versions, including plenty that are all veg. Since Spain is also in love with chickpeas, I like to add them to my paellas; in this instance, with green beans and shishito peppers, but you can sub in any of your favorite seasonal vegetables. I learned the techniques for a good paella from the late cookbook author Penelope Casas; now I improvise to my heart?s content. If you don?t have a large paella pan, use two of your biggest skillets.?
6 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth ¬ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads* 2 tomatoes, halved « cup extra-virgin olive oil 24 small shishito peppers, stemmed but left whole 1 large yellow onion, chopped 6 garlic cloves, chopped 2 red bell peppers, chopped 2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton) 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste 1 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces ¬ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves 3 cups imported Spanish rice, preferably Calasparra (may substitute Arborio) 3 cups cooked or canned no-salt-added chickpeas (from one 29-ounce can or two 15-ounce cans), drained and rinsed 2 cups spinach, chopped 1 cup Chickpea Aioli or store-bought vegan or traditional mayonnaise, mixed with 1 finely chopped garlic clove
Preheat the oven to 400 § F. In a saucepan, combine the broth and saffron over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover while you assemble the paella. Set a box grater over a bowl and run the cut side of the tomatoes across the coarse side of the grater, continuing until you are left with just the skin. Heat a 17-to 18-inch paella pan over two or three burners or heat two 10-to 11-inch cast-iron skillets over medium-high heat. Pour in the olive oil and when it shimmers, add the shishitos, searing each side for a minute or two, then use tongs to transfer them to a plate. Stir in the onion, garlic, and bell peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cumin, and salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the green beans and cook, stirring frequently, until they lose a little of their crunch. Stir in the tomato pulp and parsley and cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the rice, coating it well with the pan mixture. Stir in the broth, chickpeas, and spinach, taste, and add more salt if needed. Cook, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the mixture is no longer soupy, but the rice is still covered by liquid, about 5 minutes. Nestle the shishitos on the rice and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake, uncovered, until the rice is al dente, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove, cover with aluminum foil, and let it sit for 10 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Serve hot, with the aioli on the side. *Note: Saffron may not be available, or may not be in your budget, so a common substitute is an Okinawan favorite, turmeric.