There is something sexy about men cooking! Every culture has festivals or traditions where a group of men comes together and cookout under the sky, generally on an open fire – be it the American barbecue, Indian biryani, or Spanish paella. As family stories flow over drinks in the open air, and men take charge of everything – from building the fire to the actual cooking, the whole experience truly is a food lover’s paradise.
I have worked with some amazing male chefs, and I personally know guys who absolutely enjoy cooking at home. But there are some men who lack the patience to work in the kitchen! Even these reluctant cooks light up when they see an open fire. Give them a couple of beers and they can make wonders! Something about the open fire brings out the cook in every man. I have actually seen men arguing over who gets to be the grill master, can you see that happening over a kitchen stove?
Paella. The word itself takes you to an exotic place! Paella actually denotes the pan that the dish is cooked in. I am a big fan of one pot meals, and Paella has to be on the top of the list of my all-time favorites! Paella is to Spanish cuisine what Risotto is to Italian cuisine, it has become a simple technique of cooking that can be translated to varying recipes.
Traditionally, Paella is cooked with different varieties of short-grain Spanish white rice. While everyone has their own spin on how they cook their Paella, the two constants are saffron and sweet Spanish paprika, derived from the Pimenton pepper. The saffron gives the paella a bright yellow color and a unique sweet aroma while the paprika gives the dish spicy smokiness. Paella is a versatile dish and can be cooked with seafood, poultry, meats and even vegetables.
My favorite substitute for the white rice in a Paella is Quinoa. Quinoa is a protein-rich seed that contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It’s rich in iron, lysine, magnesium and vitamin B2. I have used chickpeas, carrots, peas, green beans, turnips and cherry tomatoes in this paella. Be really generous with lemon juice while serving; the citrus brings out the flavors in all the other vegetables. This vegetable paella dish is one of the tastiest ways you can eat your vegetables!
Quinoa Paella – A Healthy Vegetarian Paella Recipe
1 cup raw quinoa
1 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock/water
1 tsp spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp saffron – toasted slightly and pounded in a mortar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp olive oil/coconut oil
1 small white onion – chopped
1 red bell pepper – chopped
2 cloves garlic – chopped
1 cup chopped vegetables (carrot, turnip, cauliflower, green beans, tomatoes)
1/2 cup green peas
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Rinse quinoa in a strainer under running cold water. Drain and spread the quinoa on a paper towel-lined plate. Let it dry for 15 minutes. In a saucepan toast quinoa on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until quinoa is very fragrant and makes a popping sound. Toasting quinoa will reduce its bitterness and make the cooked quinoa fluffier. Transfer quinoa to the plate and set aside.
Bring stock to simmer in a big pot. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
In a large shallow pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and bell peppers. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chopped vegetables, green peas, garbanzo beans and raisins. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the quinoa and stir until well coated with vegetable mixture and slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, cumin and Spanish paprika, mix well. Now add hot vegetable stock and bring to boil. Add saffron, mix well and check for seasoning.
Put the paella in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until all the liquid absorbs. (If you don’t have an oven accessible, you can also cook on the stovetop – reduce the heat to very low and allow to simmer until all the liquid absorbs.) Remove from the oven, cover with a kitchen towel and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the paella with a fork, garnish with herbs and sliced almonds, serve with lemon wedges.