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Healthy Living Recipes

Deb Morgan: I hear there are as many versions of paella as there are families in Spain. That being said, this month I offer you our Kripalu family recipe for seafood or vegetarian paella, inspired by Elsa, one of our volunteers, who hails from Spain. At Kripalu we make this with fish and sometimes with wild caught shrimp. If you’re making the seafood version at home, try including mussels, clams, and scallops.

Read John Bagnulo’s nutritional commentary: Seafood Paella

Shellfish add nutrient density to any meal, and are one type of seafood that is just as good, if not better, when farm raised rather than caught in the wild. All mollusks are excellent sources of trace minerals and vitamin B12. Most notably, the oyster is an exceptional—the best possible—source of zinc (75–90 mg per 6 medium oysters), and the clam is a truly great source of B12 (100+ per 6 medium clams). These nutrients, which many North Americans do not get enough of, are critical for health and not depleted by cooking. Farm-raised oysters, mussels, and other mollusks are also great to throw in soups and stews made of beans and vegetables. These and a fatty cold-water fish high in DHA/EPA are the best non-plant proteins to complement an otherwise entirely plant-based diet.

Pollack is a great, inexpensive, clean fish to add to dishes like this. It is virtually pollution free, local to both coasts of the United States, and not overfished. Pollack’s meaty texture goes a long way toward giving a dish a little more fish flavor at a reasonable price.

Basic Paella Recipes and Technique

Serves six.

  1. Make stock.
    Stock can be made by simmering a variety of vegetables and herbs in water. Shrimp shells, fish heads, and other such “rejects” can be added to make a richer broth. My favorite and very simple broth for both seafood and vegetable paella is as follows: Bring 6 cups water to a boil with a 3-inch piece of kombu seaweed, turn off heat, then add ¼ cup bonita flakes (for a true vegetarian broth, just use the kombu). Let simmer a few minutes, then strain the broth and keep it hot for paella.

  2. Gather and prepare ingredients.
    Here are two variations, although paella has no limits.

  3. Seafood Paella

    12 shrimp
    12 scallops
    ½ pound or more white fish, such as haddock
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1 onion, diced
    ½–1 cup each red and green pepper
    1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    ½ cup white wine
    3–5 cloves garlic
    ½ teaspoon saffron
    1½ cups rice
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Lemon wedges for garnish

    Vegetable Paella

    Substitute 2 cups cooked lima beans in place of seafood; smoked tofu also adds a wonderful flavor.

    Add more vegetables: asparagus, squash (summer or winter), or sun-dried tomatoes, for example. The rest of the ingredients remain the same, and a dash of truffle oil adds the perfect finish.

  4. Make a garlic saffron paste.
    Using either a mortar and pestle or a food processor, combine 2 tablespoons olive oil with peeled garlic and saffron threads. Mash or blend until smooth, then set aside.

  5. Begin to cook (a paella pan is recommended).
    Sauté the onions and peppers in 2 tablespoons olive oil until they become aromatic. Add tomatoes and continue to simmer until a fond begins to form (that’s the sticking at the bottom of the pan). Deglaze the pan with the wine (in other words, splash wine, stock, or water in the pan to steam-cook the sticky stuff off the sides). Sear the scallops and fish in the pan, adding a little salt and pepper, then remove and set aside. For the vegetarian paella, add the cooked beans at this point. Combine the saffron mixture with 1 cup hot stock and salt to taste, then set aside. Add the rice to the vegetables and stir. Add the saffron broth and stir. Add 2 more cups of hot broth and distribute rice evenly. Continue to simmer until rice begins to soften.

  6. Finish paella one of two ways:
    • Lay your seafood on top, if using. Remove from heat, cover, and place in a 275 degree oven. Bake until rice has absorbed all of the stock (about 10 minutes).
    • Alternatively, continue to cook the rice on the stovetop until it is almost soft but retains a slightly chewy texture. Turn off heat, cover, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

  7. Serve.
    Sprinkle with chopped parsley or cilantro and garnish with fresh lemon wedges. Traditionally paella is eaten right out of the pan, with everyone cutting a piece and sitting around the table to feast.