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recipe: red bean paella

March 27, 2011

No, I did not cook this today, after just having run a half-marathon. You bet I made my husband take me out for a celebratory post-race meal at one of our favorite restaurants in town. And I mean, some good ‘ol carby, greasy food. But more on that on another post.

Mark Bittman (who is a runner himself), if you happen to be reading this (and I doubt you are) – THANK YOU for your fantastic recipes.

This was our dinner a few days ago and it was just one of those recipes that after tasting it while it was cooking, I could not wait until it was done. It was really that good. And I don’t credit my cooking here. I credit Mark Bittman’s creation. Okay, I give myself credit for following directions, hehe.

I have actually never eaten the real version of paella, which is (according to Wikipedia):

“a Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-19th century near lake Albufera, a lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain.[1] Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. Valencians, in turn, regard paella as one of their identifying symbols.

There are three widely known types of paella: Valencian paella (Spanish: paella valenciana), seafood paella (Spanish: paella de marisco) and mixed paella (Spanish: paella mixta), but there are many others as well. Valencian paella consists of white rice, green vegetables, meat (rabbit, chicken, duck), land snails, beans and seasoning. Seafood paella replaces meat and snails with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables. Mixed paella is a free-style combination of meat, seafood, vegetables and sometimes beans. Most paella chefs use calasparra[2][3] or bomba[3] rices for this dish. Other key ingredients include saffron and olive oil.”

Maybe we’ll go to Spain one day and I’ll finally get to try this dish. Or, hmmm, maybe a visit to one of the tapas restaurants in Dallas?

In the meantime, I’ll stick to this recipe (and it’s a great one to add to my vegetarian arsenal). My husband and I both really enjoyed it. The husband, who only ate a little of the paella on the first night due to a somewhat queasy stomach, could not wait to eat leftovers, it was that good. And I know, my taste is subjective and that’s how cooking/eating is. But I really, really highly recommend this. And yes, the recipe does contain saffron but don’t be afraid. Keep in mind that saffron is quite expensive. Kroger was selling a small bottle of saffron threads for $14!! Thankfully I knew that World Market carried it as well and I only spent $5 for a little plastic container of it (about an inch big). Yes, that’s still pretty expensive but I only used a pinch of it and I’m sure my saffron stash will last me a good while. Sometimes, it’s okay to splurge! Plus, I got to use some of my Spanish paprika, purchased at The Spice Store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Yummm.

And without much further ado, Mark Bittman’s red bean paella with tomatoes (very slightly altered), from The Food Matters Cookbook.


  • salt
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock (if you want to make this completely vegetarian, use vegetable stock; I only used chicken stock because it’s what I already had in the pantry)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • pinch of saffron threads (optional, I guess . . .)
  • 2 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) kidney beans, drained
  • dried or fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small pot, boil some water and salt it. Mix in the rice and cook it, undisturbed but with bubbles boiling steadily, for 12 minutes. Then drain the water and set the rice aside. To make it easier on yourself (i.e. lessen the amount of dishes to wash later), use the same pot to heat the stock over medium-low heat.

2. Put sliced tomatoes in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Carefully mix so that all tomatoes are coated with the seasonings.

3. Put the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil into a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (read below after the recipe) over medium-high heat. Then add the onion, garlic, along with some salt and pepper (remember, I tend to not use too much sodium so do this to your liking). Cook, taking great care not to burn the onions and garlic (because I almost burned mine – whoops!). Adjust the heat a little, if you have to. Stir occasionally until the onion and garlic are soft.

4. Stir in the tomato paste, pinch of saffron and paprika – mix and cook for about 1 minute.

5. Add rice and beans to the skillet, stir around to coat these new additions with the oil, for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the chicken stock and stir until just combined.

6. Finally, carefully add the tomato slices on top of the rice and beans. Put the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, undisturbed. After the initial 15 minutes, check to see if the rice is done. If it still needs to be cooked (rice still has a crunch to it), add a little bit of water and cook for another 5 minutes. When the rice is cooked to the desired consistency, remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

(Additionally, Mark Bittman notes in his cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook, “If you like, put the pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust – called soccarat in Spain – before serving either hot or at room temperature.”

Amazing. Amazing, I tell you! The scent of this dish as it is cooking is divine. And actually eating it is fantastic (plus, I think the final result looks really pretty!). Give it a try, I don’t think you’ll regret it. And for leftovers, stir in a bunch of baby spinach leaves and reheat the dish on a skillet over medium-high heat. Still great the next day. By the way, I have to return this book to the library pretty soon. I just told my husband that I want to own this cookbook, hint hint.

On a related note, when I was reading through TFM Cookbook and saw this recipe, I was presented with a dilemma – I did not have an ovenproof skillet. Solution? Go to TJ Maxx, of course! Where you will find very affordable pots and pans and that’s exactly what I did. The blue skillet you see in the pictures is a 12-inch nonstick ECOLIFE fry pan. According to the cardboard label it came with, this pan:

  • is PTFE-free (polytetrafluoroethylene) and PFOA-free (perfluorooctanic acid), both found in Teflon cookware, which I’m trying to get away from using (there are pro and con arguments for Teflon, which you can search the Internet for, like this article or this article). I’m not telling you to throw out all your Teflon cookware, but this is just my preference as I learn more about cooking.
  • has a nonstick coating that won’t crack or peel
  • won’t release fumes when overheated
  • performs well at high heat for searing, grilling and broiling
  • oven safe and broiler safe up to 600 degrees F
  • lab-tested for durability and performance
  • made with heavy-gauge aluminum that allows the pan to heat rapidly and evenly, saving energy
  • has stainless steel handles that stay cool (unless, of course, you put it in the oven)
  • very easy to clean and dishwasher safe

I’ve only used this pan once, to make the above meal, and I am in love. I can’t wait to try new recipes using this pan. So if you’ve ever looked for an oven safe pan, give this one a try. At a cost of $16.99 plus tax at TJ Maxx, it’s a bargain – and who doesn’t love that?

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