Home Alone….and Paella!

When I’m not teaching or preparing for class, one of the big advantages of having a few days home alone — on my own — is that I can do things in the kitchen that are totally impractical at other times.  My example for tonight is Paella, but before we get there, I have to tell you about the past few days.

I came back from the island Saturday afternoon, in time to stop at Idylwilde for some basic vegetables.  Red beets and a couple of potatoes would hold me over until the farmer’s market on Sunday.  Some Cavatelli and Nicoise olives, plus my mature Arugula from the garden and a little salad, provided supper that night.

A 2007 Soave was rich enough to accompany nicely.

Sunday was a cook’s delight.  A visit to the farmer’s market and another stop at the farm stand and I was ready for the next few days.  Dinner was relatively simple: a salad of young beets (red and yellow), fresh young arugula, cashew cheese I had made previously, plus walnut and olive oils, and chopped organic walnuts.

I also decided to braise a small head of cabbage — along with some carrot and onions and ginger — in one of my favorite little copper pots from Dehillerin in Paris many years ago.

Monday, after class, I am thinking Italian, and since I was able to hit the supermarket on the way home, I now have tofu.  I have no recipes for tofu, Italian style, but as luck would have it, I just received my replenishment shipment of Organic Costa Rican black peppercorns, and they were nice enough to include a sample package of lemon-infused peppercorn rub.  The fragrance was wonderful, so Shazam!, I had my Italianate marinade for the tofu.  Together with Sicilian olive oil, garlic, and a little white wine vinegar, I marinated the tofu for several hours, after pressing much of the excess water out of it.  I rubbed some of the marinade on a small Italian eggplant, a little zucchine, and four fat button mushrooms, and then proceeded to grill them all.  I had also purchased a Pain Levain at the farmer’s market, which I also grilled, rubbed with garlic and half of a fresh tomato (Catalan-style), and dinner was all set.

The other thing I did on Monday night was — finally — to prepare a Sofrito, a recipe which had tantalized me for some time, but for which I could not find the time previously to prepare (who had 4-5 hours in the kitchen for making a foundation ingredient?):

It did take about 5 hours, but the result was delicious and now ready for the Main Event – Paella on Tuesday!  Since there was no logical reason at all for me to take out my 18″ paella pan and make a dish that would serve 4-5 people, it was all the more attractive for the simple reason that I could do it anyway.  So tonight’s dinner contained:

  • eggplant
  • zucchini
  • celery
  • sofrito
  • turnip
  • mustard greens
  • arugula
  • fava beans
  • red pepper
  • spring onion
  • grilled tofu, and leftover grilled vegetables from last night
  • 4 littleneck clams
  • a handful of rock shrimp
  • paella rice
  • pimenton
  • garlic
  • fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • homemade vegetable stock

and it looked like this when it came out of the oven and was loosely-covered with foil for another 15 minutes:

As you can readily imagine, I already had a wine from the cellar in mind: a 2007 Porrera Black Slate from Priorat, in Spain.  The technical term is: Wow!  Somehow the Pimenton made the wine totally compatible with all those vegetables and a little seafood.  Marvelous.

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