PERFECT PAELLA

Eggplant, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and mushroom simmered in a herb, spice and Sake tomato broth with brown rice and saffron. Perfect in every way! Done the old-fashioned way!

Makes 12 cups

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

4 c. unpeeled fresh eggplant cubes, 1/2 inch cubes (no larger)

8 oz. fresh button mushrooms, washed, dried, sliced

1 t. salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 small yellow onion; cut ends off, cut in half from end to end, then crosswise into 1/4 inch wide half rings

2 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, cut crosswise into 3rds (non-marinated)

28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, including liquid

1 c. sweet red roasted peppers, cut into 1 x 1/2 inch strips

2 c. frozen petite peas

2 c. water

1 c. Sake wine

juice of 1 lg. ruby red grapefruit, strained to remove seeds

2 T. soy bacon bits

1 T. dried basil

2 t. dried tarragon

2 t. onion powder

1 t. dried oregano

1/4 t. red cayenne pepper

1/4 t. ground allspice

1 t. saffron stigmas or 1/2 t. powdered. or to taste

3 T. pure maple syrup, grade A amber

2 t. additional salt

lots of freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 c. brown rice

additional water

2 handfuls fresh cilantro

In extra-large skillet or large pot, before you turn the heat on, add eggplant, mushroom, salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat with oil. Turn heat to med.-high heat and saute, stirring often till softened.

Add onion and remaining ingredients, ending with freshly ground black pepper. Stir well and bring to boil.

Add brown rice. Stir, return to boil, stir again, then level ingredients in pan. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add another cup of water. Stir, level, cover tightly and cook another 45 minutes.

Again, add another cup of water, stir, level and cook till rice is done.

Before serving, and when paella is very hot, add fresh cilantro and additional freshly ground pepper.

Notes: If you don’t have an extra-large skillet, use a large pot. to determine ahead of time the actual size pot/pan/skillet you’ll need in for any recipe, add up the approximate amounts of all the ingredients and make sure your pot/pan/skillet capacity is larger than that.

We don’t saute the onion with the eggplant. You’ve got a way to go with the cooking time and you don’t want the onion to turn to mush.

I like to drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each serving. If you want, don’t add the cilantro to the paella; instead, sprinkle on top of each bowl with the black pepper and olive oil.

This is the way traditional paella is made, cooking the rice with the veggies for a long time over low heat, adding more water as it becomes absorbed. The rice takes longer to achieve doneness due to the other ingredients in the water competing for the liquid and the fact that the liquid is thicker than plain water. White rice will disintegrate with the slow/long cook process. The longer all ingredients cook, the more melded and mature the flavor achievement.

It’s best to serve paella when it’s done cooking. The longer it sets, the more the rice absorbs the broth. In other words, don’t make it ahead to serve later. Most people won’t make it more than once or twice a year, so make it a celebratory event.

The sun-dried tomatoes create a meat-texture presence, while the soy bacon bits add a smoke flavor reminiscent of cooking outdoors over an open wood fire.

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