Sometimes food tastes better when it’s shared. Other times, like in my family’s case, when it’s fought over. One thing’s for sure - life’s too short to eat alone.
They say in Spain that what you eat is secondary to whom you eat with, and paella, in particular, seems to illustrate that point. The smallest pan size made is still seven inches wide, which means it’s impossible to make a serving for one. And as if to underscore that point, the largest are up to 32 feet!
This vegan version replaces meat and fish with immunity-boosting shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms (feel free to substitute other mushrooms available to you) to render a delectable meal that’s full of savory umami flavor. Combine that with the dish’s antimicrobial garlic and onions, vitamin C-rich peppers and antioxidant-packed spices, and consume with good friends and great conversation - and you will have plenty of reasons to toast to your health.
VEGAN MUSHROOM PAELLA
Makes 6-8 servings
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 2 cups bomba or arborio rice
- 1 cup onion, sliced
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 quart water
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 1/2 pounds shiitake mushroom, thinly sliced
- 1 pound oyster mushroom
- 1 pound king trumpet mushroom, sliced 1” thick
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cup caramelized onion slices
- 2 lemons, zested
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh thyme
- Lemon slices
- Charred, ripped up crusty bread for passing
- In a very wide pan, preheated over medium high heat, add the 2 Tbsp olive oil, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes and rice. Saute for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Add the sliced onion, and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes.
- Add the saffron threads, bay leaf, water and thyme, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with its lid and reduce the heat to simmer.
- Meanwhile, in a separate nonstick skillet, over high heat, saute the mushrooms in olive oil for 5-8 minutes until they are browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan.
- Saute the peppers. Remove pan from heat.
- Sprinkle the lemon zest over the paella, then cover the pan again for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat, garnish with fresh thyme and serve with some crusty bread.
Daphne Cheng is a pioneer in haute, plant-based cuisine. In New York, Cheng developed a reputation for creating and curating unique experiences. Hosting diverse events, she served top cuisine and inspired conversation for influential guests ranging from CEOs and entrepreneurs to top creatives to celebrities such as Vera Wang, Alec Baldwin, Lea Michele, MIA and Chris Hemsworth. Over the course of four years, over 1100 unique dishes and over 15,000 guests, she launched a boutique catering company serving high-end clients; one of NY’s most popular Tribeca supperclubs, Suite ThreeOhSix; and the experimental dining space, EXHIBIT C. She has been featured in several US media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Vogue, the Observer, Eater and the Dr. Oz Show. Cheng recently moved to China, setting her sights on changing the way 1.4 billion people eat and live. She plans to influence culture at scale through an edu-tainment media platform, TV shows, and a series of fine dining and fast casual restaurant experiences. The first restaurant is set to open in Shanghai in Summer 2017, followed by Beijing in Fall/Winter 2017.