My Favorite Paella

This morning we walked to the Charlottesville City Market.

We picked up an incredible assortment of mixed peppers, baby eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, gala apples – and a venus fly trap. This was my answer to all the bizarre bugs lurking around our new house. Plus, they’re just cool plants.*

We supplemented the farmer’s market with a trip to C’Ville Market on our walk home to make sure we snagged everything on our list. They even had canned pumpkin – I’ve been looking everywhere for it to test out a pumpkin oatmeal recipe that’s been floating around the blogosphere.

Today’s grocery list included ingredients for one of my favorite recipes: vegan paella.

When I first made the decision to become a vegetarian a few years ago, my mom was really supportive. She bought me my first meatless cookbook: a vegan recipe compilation by chef Tal Ronnen.

At that time, I hadn’t considered veganism and so words like “tofu” and “seitan” and “nutritional yeast” were still foreign to me. But now The Conscious Cook is one of my most beloved kitchen tools [one of its other recipes I enjoy is the pan-seared tofu crab cakes with beet salad – which you can see a photo of on our old Tumblr]. The recipes are very intense and involve a lot of obscure or expensive ingredients, so it’s generally a “special occasion” book, but Chef Tal also provides tons of kitchen tips, veganism tips, and “guest chef” recipes. There’s 200 pages of deliciousness, but I always come back to the paella.

This is the third time I’ve made the paella, but the first time I’ve done it “right” – with saffron in the rice to get that traditional color. I still don’t use paella rice, I prefer the whole grain brown (add cooking time and be prepared to add more water/stock if you do this), and I switched out the green pepper for some of the colorful sweet peppers they had at the market. This time, I also omitted the wine from the artichokes and the nori from the mushrooms.

While I cooked, Grady snacked on some carob chip cookies I made him: a combination of oat and rice flour, honey, egg white, carob chips, cinnamon, and water.

Human-friendly, too!

He loves them! Pro-tips #1-2: (1) Dogs lack the enzymes necessary to digest lactose, which is why puppy cookies have water instead of milk; (2) I recommend 1/2 batches of dog treats, they go bad faster than store-bought treats.

I don't want to be a little fatty.

The recipe turned out great. Can’t go wrong with paella. My saffron did not make the rice as bright yellow as the photo in the book, but I could definitely smell and see a difference from when I made the recipe without it [interesting: saffron threads are actually red, and each flower only produces three threads, which is why its so ungodly expensive]. I didn’t miss the white wine, and the sweet pepper added a kick. My only upset was how crumbly Twin Oaks brand vegan sausage was. I’ll definitely go back to this brand for this recipe because it’s easy to slice and brown.

bowl of goodness.

We enjoyed dinner with a movie. Thanks, mom!

Vegan Paella with Shitake Mushrooms and Twin-Oaks “Sausage” 

Adapted from The Conscious Cook, (c) 2009 by Tal Ronnen. Go here for the full recipe, which serves 8 people and includes nori-dusted oyster mushrooms and wine-braised artichokes.

Prep Time: About 1 hour

Serves: 2

Paella Ingredients:

  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Minced fresh parsley;
  • 1 peeled and chopped tomato (remember my tip for peeling tomatoes from the gazpacho recipe?)
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 yellow sweet pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1-1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (water works fine, too)
  • Saffron threads
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil


  • Twin-Oaks (or other brand) vegan sausage (2 servings, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 small container shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1/4 cup peas
  • Lemon juice and lemon wedges (garnish)
  • salt, pepper, olive oil


Cook the onion, garlic and parsley in olive oil in a large saute pan for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and a teaspoon of water. Cook until the water evaporates (it should look like jam). Remove this from the pan.

In the emptied pan, saute the peppers for 5 minutes. Add the jam mixture back, add the rice, and cook for two minutes before mixing in the water/vegetable stock, saffron, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook 1o minutes (uncovered). Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

For the mix-ins: In a second saute pan, cook the vegan sausage in olive oil until the slices are crisp on both sides. Put aside on a plate.

Using the same pan, add a bit more oil and the mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper (to taste). They should be brown and crispy. Remove them from the pan and place them with the sausage.

Using the same pan again, saute the artichokes until browned, add a little bit of water until it evaporates. You can also use white wine here, which the original recipe calls for. I omitted to avoid opening an entire bottle of wine for 1/4 cup of liquid. Remove this pan from the heat and drizzle lemon juice over the artichokes.

At this time, increase the heat under the rice and cook until the rice starts to stick a little to the bottom of the pan. Turn of the burner, mix in peas. Cover this with aluminum foil and let it fester for about 5 minutes. Then, mix in the sausage, mushrooms, and artichokes.

Serve with lemon wedges, and sangria if you’re in the mood!

* I’m not really good with plants. I buy them because they’re “pretty cool” and they generally end up dying. Last year, I had a tomato plant and a basil plant, but not enough light on the balcony to support them. The only thing I haven’t managed to kill are the mums on our front porch [they’ve only been there 2 weeks, give it time] and a Shamrock I bought in March of 2010 [Seamus] that has yet to go dormant. It’s kind of the best plant ever.


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Categories: Recipes


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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7 Comments on “My Favorite Paella”

  1. September 4, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    It’s probably too late to do it in VA, but growing your own saffron is super easy, and the flowers are great. I missed the boat, too, but if you plant the bulbs (Crocus sativus) in the summer, you’ll have a good first harvest in the fall.

  2. September 4, 2011 at 11:20 pm #

    Oh wow, I had NO idea you could grow it here! Do you think you can do it in PA, too, or do you need the VA summer climate? I’d definitely do it next summer if so… Thanks!

  3. September 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Oh yes, definitely in PA. Apparently saffron growing is a big thing with the PA Dutch. It seems like it’s a pretty agreeable plant, and each year every plant will have more blooms, so your yield will increase, too.

    • September 5, 2011 at 12:45 am #

      Who knew? And I lived right there my whole life.

  4. Bev Licon
    September 8, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Do you know a cook book with tasty tofu recipes? Enjoying your blog.

    • September 8, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks! “The Conscious Cook” has a ton of recipes with Tofu, but some are really time consuming. I think there’s a book called “The Tofu Cookbook,” too! If you just google “recipes with tofu,” you can usually come across some fun ones, too, without buying an entire book.


  1. Foodie Links for 11/17 | Ryes and 'Shine - November 17, 2011

    […] also includes a brief interview with vegan chef Tal Ronnen, whom I’ve blogged about before [paella, anyone?]. What does Chelsea Clinton have that I don’t that she can convince her dad to to vegan? I […]

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