- 5 Tbsp. California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. multi-colored mini bell peppers (about 8), left whole, or 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2- by ½-inch pieces
- 6 oz. Shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps halved or quartered if large (about 2½ cups)
- 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tsp. coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups cauliflower florets (from ½ small head, cored and thick stems removed)
- 8 oz. green beans, cut into ½-inch lengths (about 1½ cups)
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika (preferably Pimentón de la Vera)
- 1¼ cups medium-grain white rice (see Chef's Note)
- Lemon wedges, for garnish
- Sprigs of fresh thyme or Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)
In a small saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil; cover and keep hot over low heat.
Heat 2 tablespoons of California Olive Ranch extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or paella pan over medium heat. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the peppers are blistered and browned and the mushrooms are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the chopped thyme, ¼ teaspoon of the salt and a grinding of black pepper. Remove the peppers and mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the cauliflower and green beans to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the cauliflower begins to brown and is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, ¼ teaspoon of the salt and a grinding of black pepper. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, keeping them separate from the peppers and mushrooms.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the hot pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until softened and golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and boil over high heat, stirring, until all the tomato juice evaporates. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the paprika. Add the rice and stir until coated with the tomato mixture, about 1 minute. Add 4 cups of the hot water and the remaining 1½ teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, without stirring, until most of the liquid is evaporated and the rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes.
Spoon the mushrooms and peppers onto the center of the rice. Spoon the cauliflower and green beans around the edges. Pour 1 cup of the hot water on top and cook, uncovered, on medium-low until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Do not stir. (If the rice is still slightly firm, add about ½ cup more hot water and cook for another 5 minutes.)
Turn the heat to high for 1 to 2 minutes until the rice forms a browned crust on the bottom of the pan. Push the tip of a spoon into the rice to take a peek. Let the paella stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon wedges and thyme or parsley sprigs, if using.
Chef's Note: The most important step in making paella is the slow cooking of the onion, tomato, garlic and seasonings in oil. This is called the sofrito and is essential for flavor. The dish is sometimes seasoned with saffron, but in this version, I use a delicious smoked paprika called Pimentón de la Vera. The preferred rice for paella is medium-grain sticky rice with a firm core. Imported Spanish varieties include Bomba, Calasparra and Valencia, but you can substitute more widely available Arborio or any other medium-grain white rice. Cook the rice uncovered and do not stir the paella while it is cooking. The grains will absorb the complex taste of the seasonings and will be separate, but soft and moist, when done. To get a browned crust on the bottom — considered a delicacy — turn the heat to high during the last few minutes of cooking. Include some of this crunchy layer (called the socarrat) with each serving. This is a vegan dish.
Recipe courtesy of Marie Simmons, Fresh & Fast Vegetarian (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)