Kim O’Donnel knows meat eaters. In fact, she is one. As a voice for the Meatless Monday campaign, she’s been cooking up delicious you-won’t-miss-the-meat fare for the vegetarian-curious-but-vegan’s-too-crazy crowd. With a focus on holidays (or any celebration), the versatile recipes found in The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations (Da Capo Books, 2012) ensure that eaters of all dietary stripes will leave the table satisfied. Cast aside those fears of cardboard tofurkey and gray starches. Instead, revel in dishes that inspire, surprise, and are so tasty, “meatless” is an afterthought (with allergy- and animal-free options, to boot). The following excerpt comes from the section “Winter: Ringing in the New Year.”
Buy this book in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations.
I learned how to make paella many years ago from one of Spain’s great culinary ambassadors, chef José Andrés. Using the technique Andrés taught me, I have created a meatless version with black-eyed peas, a new twist on New Year’s hoppin’ John.
The amounts below are for six hearty servings. Ideally, you’ll want to use a 15-inch paella pan to ensure the most even cooking results, but don’t worry if that’s not an option. Use a wide and shallow skillet (lid not necessary) as close to 15 inches in diameter as you can get. For a half-batch, use a pan about 10 inches wide.
Saffron, which is a spice derived from a variety of crocus, is a traditional seasoning in paella, for both flavor and color. For this dual tribute to the Catalan and the American South, the saffron is not as integral to the final dish as is the pimentón (smoked paprika), which adds layers of flavor to the beans. You can do this dish without the saffron, but in my humble opinion, you can’t do it without the pimentón.
Black-Eyed Pea Paella Recipe
4 cups vegetable stock
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion (more than 1/2 medium-size onion)
1 cup seeded and diced bell pepper of your favorite color (about 1 medium-size pepper)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen black-eyed peas, or 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, cooked*
1-1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1-1/4 cups tomato puree
1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron (optional)
1/2 cup white wine you enjoy drinking
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice (1 pound)
Optional garnishes: Pickled peppers, chopped fresh parsley, lemon zest
Tools: 15-inch paella pan
*To cook dried black-eyed peas: Soak the peas for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover by at least 2 inches.
Drain the peas, then place in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a lively simmer over medium-high heat.
Cook at a hard boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender to the bite. This should take about 1 hour.
In a medium-size saucepan, warm the vegetable stock until heated through and keep covered, on low, until ready to use.
Over medium-high heat, heat the paella pan until it’s too hot to place your hand about 3 inches above the pan. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, tilting the pan so that the oil coats the entire bottom surface. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from burning or sticking.
Add the bell pepper, stir well, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and smoked paprika, stirring until the vegetables are evenly coated with the spice, about 90 seconds.
Transfer the black-eyed pea mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean with a dry paper towel to remove any burnt, stuck-on bits. Add the remaining olive oil plus the garlic and cook over medium heat until, as chef Andrés says, “they dance.” (When heated, the garlic moves around the pan in the bubbling oil.)
Add the tomato puree and stir often, over the next 5 minutes, until the color has transformed from red to a more golden, orange-brown shade. Add the saffron, if using. Then add the white wine and increase the heat to medium-high, stirring to keep from burning.
Return the black-eyed pea mixture to the pan. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, taste for salt, then season accordingly. You want the mixture to be slightly salty. This is also your last chance to add salt before the rice is added.
Add the rice and set a timer for 16 minutes. For the first 6 minutes, gently stir the paella, to minimize burning and sticking. For the remaining cooking time, please heed the advice I learned from chef Andrés: no more stirring or touching. Otherwise, you will have a gummy rice concoction. This is also why you cannot add salt at this stage.
At minute 16, taste a grain of rice for doneness. It should be slightly al dente, like risotto. Turn off the heat and allow the paella to sit for at least 5 minutes.
The results should be dry, not soupy. Serve hot in bowls.
Black-Eyed Pea Paella Recipe makes 6 servings. You may double or halve amounts, but you’ll need to use the appropriately sized pan.
Discover more meatless holiday recipes from the book:The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into)