Monday, March 2, 2009

Paella (Or: Adventures with Soy Curls)

As every good vegan knows, soy curls have been one of the major foodie crazes of the past year or so. Pretty much everyone who's tried them sings the praises of their healthiness, versatility and overall awesomeness. Of course, my curiosity was piqued, but since they're not available locally it was awhile before I got around to trying them by means of a little splurge on Food Fight. I also bought two flavors of Sheese and some really yummy snack crackers that tasted just like the Cheez Nips of my childhood, but that's another post. Based on the several dishes I've made with the soy curls (including a spicy, General Tsao-esque dish over rice and a "chicken" pie), we really like them: the texture is similar to seitan, and they absorb the flavor of whatever they're marinated in, so they'd work well in all kinds of recipes, and they're fast, which is always a plus.

Today we have paella, a beautiful, saffron-infused, Spanish dish with as many variations as cassoulet or bouillabaisse, meaning there will always be someone to say you're doing it wrong. (And how much more wrong can you get than making it vegan, right?) But we don't care, because this recipe is delicious, and suffers not a jot from the absence of lifeless flesh. There's a tapas restaurant near Harvard Square that played an important role in the budding romance between myself and my partner, so Spanish food has a special place in my heart; one of these days I'm going to make their green mojo sauce, fill the bathtub with it and wallow in its garlicky goodness (at which point my family will know that I have finally snapped).

I love the combination of saffron, cayenne, smoked paprika, and garlic in this style of cooking, and paella is the ultimate one-dish meal, which has a lot of currency around here. Please bear in mind that the soy curls are here for the simple reason that I wanted to play with them, but if you don't have any, you could easily substitute beans (kidney or black beans would be good) or seitan, or just eliminate that element entirely and use the "marinade" as the cooking liquid for the rice; I guarantee it will be every bit as delicious.

The Soy Curls
~ In a large bowl or 6 cup pyrex beaker, combine:
~ 4 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 tsp. each: thyme, smoked paprika
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, basil, dried parsley
~ 1/2-1 tsp. dried wakame or dulse, crumbled (optional)
~ 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
~ 1/2 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric
~ Black pepper to taste
~ 1.5 cups Butler soy curls

~ Stir to combine, then heat the mixture to almost boiling. Add 1.5 cups dried soy curls, cover and set aside. After 30 minutes to an hour (the longer the better), drain and set the soy curls aside, reserving marinade.

The Veggies and Rice
~ 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 cups chopped yellow onions
~ 1 cup diced carrots
~ 1.5 cups diced yellow summer squash
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 28 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid
~ 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and sliced into 1/2" pieces
~ 1.5 cups arborio rice (basmati works too, but arborio is creamier)
~ 1 cup frozen baby peas

~ In a large, deep skillet or wok with a cover, heat the oil and saute the onions and garlic over medium heat 5 minutes.
~ Add the carrots, squash and bell pepper; cook another 5 minutes.
~ Add the artichoke hearts, tomatoes and rice. Raise heat to high and stir until the rice is thoroughly coated, about 3 minutes.
~ Pour in the reserved marinade, stir to combine, then cover and bring to a boil.
~ Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
~ Add the soy curls and frozen peas; cover the pan and cook another 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is no longer chewy.
~ Remove from heat and allow to stand for awhile so the flavors can blend. Serve with a nice red wine (or Sangria!), sauteed greens and maybe some crusty bread with olive oil for dipping.


  1. Mmmmm I love anything with the addition of smoked paprika (and that bath sounds amazing :P).

    Starred this to try soon (with seitan though, I can't get or eat soy curls :()

  2. thanks for reminding me I have a bag of soy curls to try! the paella looks delicious!