Before my recent trip to California, it wasn’t the sun, sand, or relaxed vibes I was most looking forward to — it was the farmers markets. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit them yourself, you know what I am talking about. The colors! The abundance!
This paella is a celebration of the rich array of California produce. So yes, of course it’s got avocado, but it also has juicy tomatoes, tender zucchini, and an overload of fresh herbs. Since most of these items also happen to be coming into season elsewhere, I’d urge you to make this recipe ASAP.
A Colorful, Vegetable-Forward Twist on Paella
Paella is a Spanish dish often made with seafood, meat, or both, but I don’t think it minds taking a little trip to California. The smoky, saffron-kissed rice is a perfect base for a mix of summer vegetables. Chunks of zucchini and summer squash are cooked with the rice, but where this dish really shines is in the garnish. A heap of cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, and mixed tender herbs are piled onto the finished skillet, making it quite the looker. Scoop up a bit of everything into each serving and you’ll practically taste the California sun.
California-Inspired Vegetarian Paella
- 1 tablespoon
- 4 cloves
- 1 1/2 cups
arborio or other short-grain white rice
- 1 quart
(4 cups) low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon
- 1 teaspoon
kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
small summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
medium avocado, diced
- 1 pint
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup
coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley, dill, or tarragon
Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat the oil in a 10- or 12-inch cast iron or straight-sided skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and sauté until lightly browned but not yet tender, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and saffron, if using, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook without stirring until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. (If the rice is cooked before the liquid is completely absorbed, uncover the skillet and let it simmer for an extra minute or two to evaporate it.)
Taste and season with more salt as needed. Scatter the tomatoes, avocado, and herbs over the paella and serve with lemon wedges.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
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