Spanish flavors highlighted in seafood-free paella primavera

September 4, 2012 

I loved paella when I tasted it for the first time a decade ago at a friend's wedding reception. The groom was born in Spain and was eager to introduce this seafood and rice dish to his friends. The rich flavors of the dish with shrimp, clams, sausage and vegetables were certainly celebratory. Most people loved the dish but a few -- including the bride, unfortunately -- thought it was "too fishy."

I've often wanted to recreate the dish at home but buying an abundance of fresh seafood and a special paella pan seemed too costly for recipe experimentation. When I saw this Paella Primavera on the Vegetarian Times website, I knew I had to try it for a Meatless Monday dish. With no seafood and no special equipment, I knew it would be an affordable way to experiment in the kitchen.

Unlike traditional paella, this dish took just over a half hour (including chopping time). I was amazed at how quickly and easily the dish came together and how rich the flavors were since the simmering time was minimal. I used saffron, which is expensive. I bought a $5 pouch of saffron threads and used them all. Since my husband doesn't like broccoli, I used green beans instead. It was a bit weird, though. Next time, I'll use more peas and skip the green beans. I also used an orange pepper instead of a red pepper, again due to personal taste preferences, and that worked. Don't skip the squeeze of fresh lemon when you plate the dish. The citrus and parsley added a nice freshness to the dish.

I don't think my friend would approve of this dish being called "paella" but I think he -- and his wife -- would enjoy it. It certainly didn't have that "too fishy" taste.

For a more traditional paella, check out this version from Tyler Florence and the Food Network.

This quick-cooking Martha Stewart paella features chicken sausage and shrimp. It calls for turmeric instead of saffron, which will save you a few dollars.

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