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