It couldn’t have been me. I don’t have that big a place — just 800 square feet — and other than a penchant for amassing fabulous footwear, I’m fairly conservative with my purchasing habits. Seriously, my face won’t be showing up on the next installment of “Fun with Hoarding” any time soon. So I’m flummoxed by the fact that I’ve managed to fill three large hefty bags with crap since starting process of purging before my big move, and I’m still filling! So if I didn’t buy all this sh…er, stuff, who did? There’s only one explanation: the Crap Fairy.
Under cloak of darkness, the Crap Fairy enters my home and begins her fiendish work, filling my small apartment with more stuff than I’ll ever admit to buying. Take that stack of cooking magazines over there. She doesn’t just plop a few extra on top. No, that would be too easily spotted. Instead, she sticks them in between the one or two (dozen) I’ve purchased, wedging them tightly. Everything looks neat and tidy, and her dastardly doings are only noticeable when you decide to move cross-country and have to pack all your crap. She uses the same trick with t-shirts. The crap fairy observes your habits and just expands upon them. New t-shirts, the ones with no stains, not stretched out, those she pretty much leaves alone. She knows you are in them almost every day, and to place a few more in the pile would draw suspicion. Instead, she focuses on the stack of “work out” t-shirts. You know, the ones that are no longer fit for proper company, so you put in the closet with your workout gear. Who cares about that tea stain you just can’t get out when you’re all sweaty, no one. Same for the “sleep t-shirts,” “cleaning t-shirts” and “dirty-job” ones. CF just loves messing around with those. She’s pretty cheeky with cd's and books too. You know you’d never have bought that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch album, or anything by Jackie Collins; yet, there they are. Crap Fairy strikes again!
Well, I’m three big garbage bags down, and will probably fill several more before I’m through. And I think I’m putting locks on my closet doors in the new place. Because I have a feeling it won’t take long for you know whoto find my new address.
What’s the perfect meal after a day of purging your crap? Something I can make with what’s at hand because there was no way I was going to do any more shopping! That’s exactly how this Spring Vegetable Paella came about. The bones of this are from my simple chicken paella  recipe, with the spring vegetables I had as the star. You could easily make this version vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for chicken, leaving out the chorizo and adding a tablespoon of olive oil to cook the sofrito. It is also extremely adaptable as far as what vegetables you want to use. I would have added asparagus into this too, but I was too lazy to run out to the market to get some.
Spring Vegetable Paella
4 ½- 5 ½ cups chicken broth
A good pinch of saffron threads
2-3 oz Spanish chorizo, sliced into thin coins (this is a hard sausage – don’t use the soft chorizo in casings)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, grated on the largest holes of a box grater
1 medium tomato, halved and grated and the largest holes of a box grater
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 ½ cups frozen artichoke hearts (and/or 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup frozen edamame (or if you are lucky enough to have fresh or frozen shelled fava beans, use those)
Zest of a lemon
Salt and pepper
Lightly toast a pinch of saffron in a dry pan, then add ½ cup hot chicken stock and steep 15 minutes. Heat the remainder of the stock in medium saucepan. After 15 minutes, add the saffron stock to the rest. Taste the stock and adjust seasonings. It should be well seasoned so add salt if needed. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to add to rice.
Heat a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add the sliced chorizo and cook until just browned and the fat has been released. Remove the chorizo to a plate but leave the oil you’ve rendered. There should be enough fat for the next step, but if it looks a little dry, add in up to a tablespoon olive oil. Reduce the heat to medium and make the sofrito by sautéing the onions and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the mixture darkened to a deep red and is thick, 15-20 minutes. If it starts to stick to the pan, add a little water. (You can make everything up to this point several hours ahead and set aside.)
About 30-40 minutes before you are ready to eat, bring the broth back to a simmer and set the sauté or paella pan with the sofrito over your largest burner on medium high heat. Add the rice, stirring until it’s opaque, 1-2 minutes. Pour in 3 1/2 cups of the broth (reserve the rest) and stir or shake the pan to evenly distribute the rice. Do not stir the rice from this point on. Simmer vigorously, occasionally moving the pan to distribute the heat as evenly as possibly. When the rice is at the same level as the liquid, (about 8-10 minutes), turn the heat down to medium low. Sprinkle in the peas, edamame and lemon zest. Nestle in the artichoke hearts and, if using, asparagus around the pan. Continue to simmer gently, rotating the pan as necessary until the liquid has been absorbed, about another 10-15 minutes. Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice; it should be al dente. If the rice is not done but all the liquid is absorbed, add a little more of the reserved stock or water and cook a few more minutes. I’ve found at covering the pan with foil helps move this along.
When the rice is tender, it’s time to create the socarrat (crust on the bottom, and a key factor of paella). Increase the heat to medium-high cook for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom layer of rice starts to caramelize, creating the socarrat. Rotate the pan over the heat so all parts can get a crust. The rice will crackle, but if it starts to smell burned, remove from heat immediately.
Turn off the heat and let the paella rest, covered in foil, for about 5 minutes. Serve with right out of the pan with wedges of lemon. Calories: about 320(for 6) to 475 (for 4) per serving.
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