Contributor: Hanane Abdalla (IG: @hahanasunshine)
The very first time I tasted paella was in my mama's kitchen where I distinctly remember this intoxicating aroma filling every nook and cranny of the house with Spanish and Arab influenced aromatics. This beautiful being that is my Moroccan mother whose knack for making something out of virtually nothing, has carried into my passions for creating innovative dishes.
My understanding of what “paella” really is has an etymology that stems back to the old French work paelle – which means pan (referring to the pan it's originally cooked in). Now my mother on the other hand made a good point that the word also closely resembles another word in the Moroccan dialect Arabic “baqiyah” which translates to "leftovers”.
This is exactly how paellas in my household and mother’s mother household came to be. I imagine beautiful and resilient women who strived to feed their families flavorful dishes using creative and innovative ways to use up leftovers or small tidbits of ingredients to create one amazing and flavorful dish.
There’s something poetic about one recipe handed down from one generation to another while altered ever so slightly to fit the next generation’s resources creating a culinary legacy. All the food I adopt from my mother pretty much have a story behind them.
My goal was to make the most simple and healthy version of the dish as most paella dishes simmer and cook for quite some time. What I love most about this dish is not only the comfort I get in the nostalgia, but an all-round mood and immune system boost that the components have.
Garlic is one of my staple ingredients, I use it year round and especially try to concentrate use during the season changes when most of us are susceptible to fall victim to the infamous sniffles. As far as having a clear mind and body protecting myself by boosting the amount of antibacterial foods such as garlic is so pertinent.
Same thing with spices such as Turmeric. Not only does moderate use of turmeric in cooking show improvement in mood and mental clarity after 4-8 weeks, but it acts as an incredible anti-inflammatory agent as well. If you take garlic which also acts to regulate blood flow coupled with anti-inflammatory turmeric you get a super brain boost!
This dish only took me 45 minutes to cook and about 15 to prep everything because it was a little bit of what I had!
Servings: This makes 6-8 servings- perfect to prep and freeze!
In my fridge
½ green bell pepper
½ medium onion (or one small onion)
¼ jalapeño (sub for more peppers if you don’t like spice, or opt out)
2 cloves of garlic
parsley and cilantro (3/4 sprigs each)
2 breasts of roasted chicken
2 ½ cups water
In my pantry:
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup Chicken Stock (you can add more stock (or vegetable stock) and less water for more chicken flavor but again, its al I had!)
1 -9oz oz can diced tomato with juice (no-salt)
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
½ tsp chipotle season
½ tsp turmeric
pinch of Saffron (if on hand)
2 cups brown rice
salt (to taste)
Directions: First I took the rice, rinsed it out with some water in a medium-large sized pot. Then added all the liquid ingredients – stock, dices tomatoes, water and oil, then turned on the stove while prepping the veggies.
Diced up the bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, and garlic then threw them in the pot.
Next, I took the cilantro and parsley- made sure they were cleaned properly (I dunk them and shake them in a cup of water then pat dry) and cut the stems separately from the leaves. Set the leaves of the herbs aside to dice separately (I’ll tell you why in a sec). Dice up the stems very finely and throw in the pot as well. Then, I throw in all the seasoning and salt listed. *My rule of thumb for the salt is that the water in the pot of rice should be slightly salty to taste (don’t go too ham now) and you can always adjust in the end too.*
Great, now you’re pretty much done. Wait until the water in the pot comes to a boil. Now you can turn the heat to a low simmer, cover the pot, and set the timer for 45 minutes.
In the meantime, you can grab whatever protein you have on hand. I just so happened to have some roasted chicken breast lying around so while that was cooking I just shred it up by hand. The chicken didn’t make it into the picture because… Well…I added the chicken and it was a done deal almost instantly. Some other great additions: For my vegetarians- chickpeas or roasted tofu or lentils- for my pescatarians cooked shrimp or salmon mussels etc. for my chicken lovers…more chicken.
Once the 45 minutes is up, uncover the lid make sure the rice is just about done, fluff the rice and mixture by stirring gently turn off the heat add my protein addition and the cilantro and parsley leaves and stir it into the pot. The reason why I do this is to maintain the green color of the herbs as you can see below! Cover for 10 minutes to allow all the flavors to incorporate and serve it up!
****I encourage you to ask a relative, friend, or even a stranger who passes on a recipe to share the background of the recipe I think you’ll be surprised how much value and inspiration it adds to the dish! ****