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The Power of Paella

April 26, 2007 By:
Louise Fiszer, JE Feature
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A good part of the joy in foreign travel is the discovery of foods that express the flavor of the country and its people. I'm always on the lookout for new dishes that will translate well to fit my kitchen and dining lifestyle.

On a recent trip to Spain, I found such an item -- paella, the national culinary treasure. This eye-appealing, saffron-scented dish combines unexpected yet harmonious ingredients -- fish, beef, turkey, chicken, vegetables and rice. It takes its name from the shallow, open-dish in which it's cooked; ingredients vary from region to region.

As I ordered paella after paella (each a little different), I realized what a wonderful dish this could be for Shabbat dinner. I couldn't wait to create my own California, kosher-style version at home with our own lush local produce. The following elements make it ideal for entertaining:

· It works well for a sit-down dinner or buffet.

· The recipe can be expanded to feed a crowd.

· Timing is not critical. It is very forgiving of a respite in a warm oven.

· Paella is not dependent on particular ingredients; in fact, it lends itself perfectly to seasonal vegetables.

· Preparation is simple once all of the ingredients have been assembled.

· It needs no side dishes or accompaniments; it's a self-contained meal.

· And last, but not least, the presentation is nothing short of spectacular, making it a fabulous and edible centerpiece.

The dinner I created was a huge success, and a wonderful surprise awaited me when it was time to serve a Saturday lunch. I added a couple of handfuls of fresh greens to my leftover paella and tossed it all with a light, simple vinaigrette. What a terrific bonus for the cook!

My paella menu usually includes a light, no-cook soup, with fruit and cookies for dessert. Both can be made ahead of time for this feast that is a treat for the eye and the palate.

Paella California

[Meat]

6 Tbsps. olive oil
1/3 lb. kosher chicken or turkey sausage, or beef franks, sliced
1 whole kosher chicken breast, boned, skinned and cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red or yellow pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 tsp. saffron
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 Tbsps. capers
6 oz. asparagus or green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups long-grain rice
4 cups kosher chicken stock
1/4 cup kosher dry white wine
2 bay leaves
4 oz. snow peas or 1 cup green peas
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet or paella pan. Sauté the sausage or franks, and the chicken, about 3 minutes, until chicken turns white. Remove and reserve.

Add the onion, red pepper and garlic to the same pan. Cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, saffron, thyme, capers and asparagus.

Cook until bubbly, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice until well-coated with sauce. Pour in stock and wine, bring to a boil and add the bay leaves. Cover, and cook over a low heat for 17 minutes.

Stir in the peas, sausage or franks, and the chicken, and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with parsley.

When serving, make sure that each plate gets some of everything in the paella.

Serves 8 to 10.

Paella Salad

[Pareve]

Dressing:

3 Tbsps. seasoned Japanese rice-wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil

4 cups leftover paella
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups arugula or watercress leaves
salt and pepper
2 small heads radicchio, leaves separated

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until well-blended.

In a large bowl, combine paella with cucumber, cherry tomatoes and watercress.

Toss with dressing. Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve in radicchio leaves.

Serves 8.

Golden Gazpacho

[Pareve]

4 large yellow or orange tomatoes, seeded and cut up
2 yellow or orange bell peppers, quartered and seeded
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved and seeded
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, quartered
1 yellow or green chili pepper, halved and seeded
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar or honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 11/2 cups vegetable stock or water
dash hot-pepper sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Working in batches, in a blender or food processor, purée all the ingredients, except the cilantro leaves. Cover and chill.

Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

Serves 8.

Louise Fiszer is a California cooking teacher and food writer. Among the six books she's co-authored is Jewish Holiday Feasts.


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