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Tomato Post # Three

Tomato Paella--a quick, inexpensive, vegetarian version of the classic rice and seafood dish.

I’ve written a lot about tomatoes recently and this will likely be the last post for this year’s crop. Having fresh tomatoes on the counter is a marker of late summer. And there’s nothing like a few tomatoes to inspire a quick meal. They’ve been doing it over and over and I still haven’t gotten through all my favorite tomato recipes. Last night we had BLTs for dinner. The night before we had the above Paella. And tonight we’ll have panzanella or my favorite raw (blended) tomato sauce with lots of basil and olive oil served with pasta (at room temperature) with big chunks of fresh mozzarella. And then maybe I’ll be done. . . . or not quite.

This tomato paella would be the perfect dish for this coming Saturday’s Day of Action–Slow Food USA’s campaign to reclaim the “Value Meal”. Read more about it here with some tips on inexpensive, delicious cooking from yours truly.

Mark Bittman published this recipe in the New York Times five years ago and I’ve been making it ever since, with a few variations. It’s best with really flavorful, ripe tomatoes–and not sauce tomatoes like Romas or San Marzanos but heirloom, slicing tomatoes. Unlike Bittman I cook the whole thing on the stove top instead of finishing it in the oven but with either method it’s a quick one-dish meal with a simple green salad on the side.

The flavorful base of onion, garlic, saffron and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) is the foundation of this dish.

You arrange the tomato wedges on the rice once you've added the stock. Once the stock is absorbed you can see the pin wheel of tomatoes on top of the rice.

Tomato Paella

–Adapted from Mark Bittman

This is a delicious, quick, and inexpensive (and vegetarian) twist on a classic paella. It’s perfect this time of year with beautiful, juicy tomatoes. It’s very important to season the ingredients properly as you go. It’s really a shame to under salt this dish. Taste your stock or bouillon to make sure it’s well seasoned.

3 1/2 cups stock, water or veggie bouillon (made with 4 1/2 teaspoons bouillon paste and 3 1/2 cups water)

1 1/2 pounds ripe, slicer/heirloom tomatoes (not sauce tomatoes), cored and cut into thick wedges (about 4 medium to large tomatoes)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, minced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Large pinch saffron threads

2 teaspoons Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika), or other paprika

2 cups Spanish or Arborio or other short-grain rice (I use Arborio)

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (if the stock isn’t very salty or you’re using water)

Warm stock or water in a saucepan. If using water, add a teaspoon of salt to the water. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to coat. Put remaining oil in a 10- or 12-inch heavy-bottomed 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 saffron if you are using it and pimentón and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another two to three minutes. Add hot stock or water and stir until just combined.

Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with juices that accumulated in bottom of bowl. Cook over medium heat undisturbed, for 15 -20 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, keep cooking 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. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving. If you have time you should definitely do this last part. The crust is fabulous.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mary Lane #

    I made this last night after an afternoon of reducing a cauldron of tomato sauce. Tasty. Not until I was eating it did I realize that it’s also a variant of Spanish Rice, which I’ve always liked when I’ve had it but never made. Do you cook it covered or uncovered?

    September 14, 2011
    • I cook it uncovered. And yes, it is a fun variant of Spanish Rice, which i love too.

      September 14, 2011
  2. I don’t like chicken breast that much, and my doc said it is the best meat for me. how should I cook it to be delicious? thanks.

    October 23, 2011
  3. Mary Dilles #

    I made this last night using my veggie bouillon (so convenient!) and heirloom tomatoes (finally ripe!) from the garden, and in the Cook-With-What-You-Have spirit, substituting leeks for some of the onions, adding a little diced bacon, some white wine near the end to complete the cooking of the rice, and finally, parsley on top. It is to-die-for delicious, and a fabulous use of ripe tomatoes. I will definitely be making this again! Thanks, Katherine!

    August 19, 2012

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