Meatless Monday: Paella with Tomatoes

Smoked paprika adds a smoky, almost bacon-like flavor to recipes; use it in vegetarian dishes like Mark Bittman's Tomato Paella.
By: Michelle Buffardi
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Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Paella is traditionally made with chicken, seafood and smoky chorizo sausage. Mark Bittman's stripped-down, vegetarian version is not only meatless, but it takes much less time to make. It's loaded with tomatoes, so you can use up the fresh end-of-season tomatoes that are everywhere now, but that will be gone quite soon. Best of all, smoked paprika stands in for chorizo, giving the rice dish its traditional flavor.

You need an excuse to buy smoked paprika. It's not something that's always in the spice cabinet, like cinnamon and black pepper. But once you buy it for a recipe, you'll be searching for more recipes to make with it. Smoked paprika is made from dried, ground peppers, just like ordinary paprika (you know, the kind you sprinkle on deviled eggs), but it's made with pimiento peppers that have been smoked over wood planks till they absorb the deep flavor. The spice imparts big, smoky notes, and is especially useful in vegetarian cooking; it adds an almost bacon-like flavor, minus the grease and  . . . bacon.

Makes 4-6 servings
3 1/2 cups stock or water
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads, optional
2 teaspoons Spanish pimenton (smoked paprika), or other paprika
2 cups Spanish or other short-grain rice
Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Warm stock or water in a saucepan. Put the tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat.

Put the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron if you are using it, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add liquid and stir until just combined.

Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Here's What to Make With the Rest of Your Smoked Paprika:

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