A couple weeks ago was my eldest daughter Sridevi’s birthday, and all she wanted was to have dinner at restaurant Coqueta in San Francisco. Coqueta is a California Spanish tapas style restaurant situated on the waterfront on the Embarcadero in beautiful Pier 5 in San Francisco. This is an extremely popular place and reservations are hard to come by, but Sridevi wanted this dinner so badly that she made her own reservation over a month in advance 😀.
Chef Michael Chiarello’s Coquetta serves up fresh California ingredients with a Spanish twist and I tell you folks, all the hype surrounding this restaurant is well worth it. This is one fabulous eatery with great food, wonderful service, and an amazing location. Every item on their menu is mouthwatering delicious be it vegetarian or not, and their cocktails are instagram worthy.
There is one item however on their menu that is revered and ordered by one and all and that is the restaurant’s signature paella. And to my delight their paella is served the traditional way with seafood and meat and also in a vegetarian version. And just as every table has done before us and will do after us we ordered the paella. We asked for it to be made vegetarian with the seafood on the side. So how was the paella? It was “Muy deliciosa!” which means “Very delicious!” in Spanish.
A wonderful rice dish flavored to perfection with saffron, tomatoes and spring vegetables, all beautifully placed around the rice. The sugar snap peas were especially bright green and crunchy and the baby turnips and carrots just as delicious. This is what I tried to replicate when I came back – A spring vegetable paella. How did my paella turn out? Absolutely delicious!! The family loved it 😋!
I wanted my paella to taste and look just as beautiful as Coqueta’s and so I tossed the vegetables lightly in the rice after it was cooked, rather than adding the veggies in the rice as the rice was cooking. This allows the lovely veggie flavors to come through and keeps them nice and crisp and gorgeous. Fair warning though, paella is not a quick dish to make, however when you are in the mood for a wonderful rice dish flavored with delicate saffron and beautiful veggies, this is the one to make. Give it a try!
Spring Veggie Paella
Makes a large quantity enough for a party of 8-10 or for two night’s dinner!
4 cups Spanish paella rice
8 cups vegetable broth plus 2 cups water
2 tsp saffron
1 tsp smoky paprika – I find Hungarian paprika to be the best
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes in their juices
6-8 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 onions finely chopped
3 leeks light green and white parts finely cut
2 fresh tomatos finely chopped
1 bunch of early spring onions – these are the tender onion bulbs before they mature. If you can’t find these use 2 shallots. About 2 cups
3 fennel bulbs finely cut into thin slices
1 small bunch of tender baby turnips about 3-4 turnips cut into halves
4 spring carrots cut into thin pieces
4 cups sugar snap peas
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- In a pan heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté spring onion/ shallot for 1 minute. Next add the sugar snap peas and stir-fry for 3-5 minutes, do not over cook the sugar snap peas. You want them to be bright green and crisp. Add salt and pepper and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425 F degrees. Toss the fennel, carrots and radish with 3 tbsp olive oil. Place the veggies in two baking sheets and spread them evenly, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the veggies are nice and tender and slightly charred. Toss them around at the 15-minute mark to for even roasting. Set aside.
- In another pot heat 8 cups broth with 2 tsp saffron and leave it on the stove on a low simmer.
- Make the paella rice: In a large pot heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic, leeks and onions until translucent about 5 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, paprika and canned tomatoes with their juices and bring to low boil. Now add the rice and stir in. Slowly add all of the broth. Taste and add salt accordingly – about 1 1/2 tsp.
- Bring the rice to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook the rice for 15 minutes until rice is cooked through. Check after 7 minutes and add 1-2 cups of water and if the broth has evaporated. continue cooking the rice until it’s cooked. Turn the stove off.
- To the cooked rice add all the veggies. Gently stir in the veggies so they are evenly distributed in the rice.
- Spring vegetable paella is ready!
- Serve paella garnished with fresh chopped parsley.