Ahh, Valentine’s Day. Around the world, it is celebrated as a special day to celebrate your loved ones. Somehow along the way, it’s also become a tad cliché (candy hearts and red roses, anyone?), and a source of disappointment for many, significant other or not!
We’ve never been big on the holiday itself, but we love any excuse to celebrate! So how about reinventing Valentine’s Day as a chance to make a celebratory meal with those you love in your life?
One of our favorite special meals is a traditional Spanish dish I discovered while studying in Madrid several years ago – paella. It’s a rice dish that’s combined with vegetables, seafood or meat. In Spain (and at our house!), special occasions call for a paella. It’s also one of those dishes where anything goes – throw in whatever might be on hand (like in Spain, amazing shellfish!).
Many times a paella is made over an open fire – you also can grill them, like we did this summer this seafood paella. However, since that time, we’ve been wanting to develop one that’s a little more accessible – and one that can be made over the stovetop, without the use of a special paella pan. (We also used a substitute for the saffron, the word’s most expensive spice, to make it a little easier on the pocket book.)
We were excited to find that not only did it work on the stovetop, it turned out beautifully – smoky, earthy, and delicious – with just the right taste of Spain! We didn’t even miss the seafood.
So, here’s our attempt at a special paella using local Indiana ingredients, with specific instructions on how to enjoy yourself in the kitchen with your loved ones while you assemble it!
–Full Hand Farm for the chard (special thanks for their first crop of the season!)
–Homestead Growers for the shiitake mushrooms
- A cast iron skillet or large heavy frying pan
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 yellow onion
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 1 bunch chard (enough for 2 cups chopped)
- 4 whole artichokes hearts (canned)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup brown arborio rice
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chickpeas (canned or cooked)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 2½ cups vegetable broth
- Set the mood: Turn on some music. Pour yourself some wine, or your beverage of choice. If you’re hungry, grab something to munch on as you prepare your dish. And—relax! Forget about the days worries and get ready to have some fun in the kitchen.
- Show off your knife skills: Set up a chopping station with some cutting boards and knives. Then do the following, in no particular order: Peel 4 garlic cloves and mince them. Peel and chop the onion. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and slice the tops into ¼ inch strips. Wash the chard and roughly chop it into bite-sized pieces. Drain the artichoke hearts, and cut them into quarters.
- Sauteing time: Bring all of your prepared ingredients to the stove, along with the remainder of the ingredients in the recipe. Then do the following: In a large cast-iron skillet or frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon turmeric, and 1 cup rice. Stir about one minute. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and their liquid, chard, 1 cup chickpeas. 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and lots of fresh ground black pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for a few minutes. Pour in about 2½ cups vegetable broth, enough to fully cover the rice and vegetables, but not enough to overflow the pan. Place the artichoke quarters in an artistic manner over the top of the dish.
- Wait: The hard part is done – now you just wait for the liquid to cook out and cook the rice. The broth should be boiling at this point. Turn down the heat and let simmer without stirring until the liquid has evaporated, about 40 minutes or so. You can add a bit more liquid (broth or water) if necessary if you find that the rice is not done, but we found that this amount of liquid and time with brown arborio rice did the trick. While you wait, clean the kitchen, set the table, assemble a simple green salad or dessert.
- Serve: After the liquid is mostly cooked out, remove from the heat and let sit for a few minutes (a little more of the liquid will absorb as it sits). Make sure not to leave on the heat too long or the paella may burn. Serve immediately.