With 10 years of marriage and over a dozen Valentine’s Days together under our belts, you’d think we’d be experts at this holiday by now. I know it can feel overly “hallmark-y” or lonely for some, but why not use it as an excuse to show each other some extra love however we can?
G and I prefer celebrating with friends instead of fancy date nights on the 14th, so this year we’ll be cozied up with a few other couples for potluck dinner and some chocolate fondue. Despite our unique approach to a typically date-centric evening, I’m still hoping to sneak in some quality time together next week. We’ve been traveling on opposite schedules lately and a romantic night at home sounds far more appealing than trying to find reservations or spending money on flowers and presents…
My main question at the moment is: How can we keep it from feeling like it’s just a normal evening?
There are a few ways that I’m hoping to add in some special details (candles/music are an obvious place to start) but the thing that I’m most excited about at the moment is roping Gerard into my favorite activity of all time: cooking dinner!
Ninety-nine times out of 100, I’m in charge of making the last meal of the day and to be completely honest, most of the time I’m operating on auto-pilot. Learning a new dish is a luxury that takes up more time than I normally have, and learning a new dish together is rare because G usually gets home from work right as we are sitting down to eat.
With Quality Time as my #1 Love Language, I have no shame asking for an activity as my “gift” and choosing the meal that we’re going to make together next week was a complete no-brainer. Our sweet friends Sonia + Alex (the darling duo behind A Couple Cooks) have launched their first cookbook this week and every single page is filled with beautiful images and delicious dishes that I cannot wait to try!
We’ve been looking for an excuse to bust out one of the wines that we brought back with us from Portugal last fall and I’m thinking that it would be a perfect pair to go with this yummy Veggie Supreme Paella! To celebrate the arrival of Pretty Simple Cooking, I’m honored to share this recipe from the new book and would ABSOLUTELY understand if it makes you want to grab a copy for yourself OR your sweetie pie. 😉
Here is the exact recipe as it appears in the book, and then you’ll find a few of my own prep notes below.
Veggie Supreme Paella
1 small yellow onion
4 medium garlic cloves
1 small head or 1⁄2 large caulifower
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 handful green beans (about 3 ounces)
1 large roasted red pepper (from a jar)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 15-ounce can diced roasted tomatoes
11⁄2 cups dry white arborio rice
11⁄2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimentón)
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric or pinch saffron
11⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
31⁄2 cups vegetable broth
Peel and dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Brush any dirt from the mushrooms, remove the tough stems, and slice the tops. Remove the ends of the green beans. Thinly slice the red pepper. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
In a large skillet (at least 12 inches) or paella pan, drizzle a bit of olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the green beans and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until bright green, slightly tender and charred in parts; remove from the pan and set aside. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil to the hot pan, and sauté the onion until just translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cauliflower, and mushrooms, and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, and cook until all liquid is reduced, about 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the rice, smoked paprika, turmeric (or saffron), and kosher salt. Stirring constantly, cook for about 1 minute until the rice is well coated. Add the broth and chickpeas and stir to combine. Arrange the green beans on top, slightly pressing them into the rice, then sprinkle the red pepper strips over the top. Bring to a simmer.
Allow the liquid to slowly absorb at a medium simmer, gently bubbling; do not stir. Avoiding stirring allows a bit of crusty rice on the bottom and edges of the pan, while the remainder of the rice stays tender. Cook until the rice is al dente and all bubbling has stopped, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on the pan. Take care that the simmer is gentle; if the heat is too high, the rice on the bottom may burn. (If you’re using a paella pan, place it across two stovetop burners and rotate it occasionally to make sure all sides cook evenly.) When the rice is done, remove from the heat and serve immediately.
One of the reasons I’m excited to use our copy of Pretty Simple Cooking is because Gerard and I approach food in a way that is very similar to The Overhisers — we’ve even chatted through this with them on an episode of our show! Beyond that, I’ve got a few dietary restrictions to work around, so here are a couple of ways to customize a la Casa de Pepper:
- I generally try to stay away from rice (bc of a blood sugar thing), so we’ll be swapping in some pearled cauliflower instead of the arborio. I love the kind that comes already prepared in a bag, but you could easily make your own in a food processor.
- Since the recipe already calls for cauliflower, we’ll probably swap in broccoli for the florets that it already has listed.
- I’m a HUGE fan of saffron so we’ll definitely be going with the real stuff instead of using turmeric as a stand in. Love the brand Frontier Natural for our spices and I buy their (super-affordable) saffron and the smoked paprika from Thrive Market.
- Last (and perhaps most importantly?) I’ll be sure to have crushed red peppers AND a bowl of freshly grated of pecorino romano at the table because nothing says romance like heating things up in the kitchen. 😉
Excerpted from A Couple Cooks | Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.