So many beautiful, vegetarian and vegan cookbooks came out this spring, around the same time as ours. We are super excited to be in the company of all these innovative authors and cooks. The world of plant-based home cooking used to feel quite lonely when we first started this blog back in 2010 (back when it was considered wild to post about things like chia pudding and green smoothies). But it doesn’t feel that way anymore, and for that we are truly grateful. Just so happy to see plant love spreading in every way it can :)
The book we are cooking from today didn’t just come out during the same season as Simply Vibrant, it came out on the same exact day! We are so happy to share a book birthday with Sonja and Alex of the blog A Couple Cooks, and their cozy new vegetarian cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking.
We love that Pretty Simple Cooking is built around friendly encouragement. Sonja and Alex (a husband and wife team) encourage you to fall in love with cooking, and to start believing that it is in fact worthy of your effort and time. This passage from the intro sums up their whole philosophy, and it resonates with us on such a deep level: “You have to believe that food is worth the time and energy spent preparing it. Worth the money to purchase wholesome ingredients, worth messy kitchens and hungry moments. Because it is worth it. Food has the power to transform your body, your mind, your relationships, and the world around you. Cooking can be one of the most life-giving, fulfilling parts of your day.”
The recipes in the book align with the above words so well: they are fun and simple, vegetarian meals, made with accessible ingredients, and they’re mostly weekday-friendly. To further help you gauge your time investment for the dishes, the Mains chapter in the book is divided into three sections: Simplest Fare, Everyday Favorites and Special Occasions. Pretty genius.
The Paella recipe we’re sharing today can definitely be considered weeknight-appropriate. It’s a one pan rice dish that’s loaded with plants: cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, chickpeas, green beans (we used spinach instead), and finished with a crucial kiss of piquant spice. Paella can seem intimidating if you’ve never made it before, but Sonja and Alex break it down into easy, doable steps that will make you a paella master in no time. The result is a fragrant, nourishing meal, with those irresistibly crispy rice edges that are always a sign of truly good paella.
Thank you Sonja and Alex, it’s a true beauty!
- 1 small yellow onion
- 4 medium garlic cloves
- 1 small head or ½ large cauliflower
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 1 handful green beans (about 3 ounces)
- 1 large roasted red pepper (from a jar)
- 1 15-oz can chickpeas
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1½ cups dry white Arborio rice
- 1½ tablespoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon turmeric or pinch saffron
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 3½ cups vegetable broth
- Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Brush any dirt from the mushrooms, remove the tough stems and slice the tops. Remove the ends of the green beans. Thinly slice the red pepper. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
- In a large skillet (at least 12 inches) or paella pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the green beans and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green, slightly tender and charred in parts; remove from the pan and set aside. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan, and sauté the onion until just translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cauliflower, and mushrooms, and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, and cook until all liquid is reduced, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the rice, smoked paprika, turmeric or saffron, and kosher salt. Stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute, until the rice is well coated. Add the broth and chickpeas and stir to combine. Arrange the green beans on top, slightly pressing them into the rice, then sprinkle the red pepper strips over the top. Bring to a simmer.
- Allow the liquid to slowly absorb at a medium simmer, gently bubbling; do not stir. Avoiding stirring allows for a bit of crusty rice on the bottom and edges of the pan, while the remainder of the rice stays tender. Cook until the rice is al dente and all bubbling has stopped, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on the pan. Take care that the simmer is gentle; if the heat is too high, the rice on the bottom may burn. (If you're using a paella pan, place it across two stovetop burners and rotate it occasionally to make sure all sides cook evenly.) When the rice is done, remove from the heat and serve immediately.
2. We used crimini mushrooms instead of shiitake. Crimini release more liquid than shiitake, so we reduced their liquid together with the tomato liquid a bit longer than it says in the recipe, about 10 minutes.
3. We used a bunch of chopped spinach in place of the green beans. We stirred it in at the very end, after turning off the heat, until wilted.