Tomato Paella

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After several years of doing fairly ridiculous things whilst traveling, I’ve gotten to the point where, when I suggest spending the night in an airport/train station/bus stop to make a cheap layover even cheaper, my friends just roll my eyes and don’t even try to convince me that anything else would be a good idea. Case in point: a few weeks ago, while spending all of six hours, none of them daylit, in Marseille with my brother, we decided to nap on the couches of a bar/lounge in the lobby of a Holiday Inn across the street from Marseille-St-Charles. My brother just rolled his eyes and curled up under a towel, while I chugged cups of coffee and tried not to seem too sketchy to the very nervous looking bartender who didn’t ask us until around four in the morning if there was anything he could do for us.

So when the Parisian, the Country Boy and I found ourselves with a few dark hours to spend in Barcelona between my landing at ten and Anne-Marie’s arrival at nine the next morning, I saw no reason to leave the airport at all. The Parisian found this altogether ridiculous, and told me as much. The Country Boy even volunteered to pay for my hotel but, stubborn half-Sicilian that I am, I refused on sheer principle, and we finally found a way to compromise: we would drive to Barcelona, park the Transporter on the street, and sleep in it.

We immediately headed for the Rambla, where the Parisian and I had sat over giant beers and sangria nearly two years before, and we ate paella and drank even more beer. When we had eaten our fill, we found a place to park the car–completely by chance, just in front of the French consulate.

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This was very exciting to all of us, especially the Country Boy.

The Parisian immediately claimed the back seat for himself and left me and the Country Boy to duke it out over the middle section, which I refused–again, on principle–deciding instead to curl up in the front seat, which grew old after about two minutes. I climbed carefully out of the car to sit on the curb instead, where the air was cool and fresh, and was surprised to see the Country Boy climb out the window behind me a few moments later–apparently, even though it was three in the morning, he couldn’t sleep either.

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We did the only thing that made any sense: we walked down to the beach, climbed the lifeguard chair, meandered in the sand, dipped our feet in the water, snuck into a fancy hotel to use the bathroom, and blasted old 90s rock mp3s from his cell phone. And when we couldn’t take anymore of waiting for the sun to rise (fun fact: the sun takes a very, very, very long time to rise), we walked back up la Rambla and found ourselves coffee amongst the semi-drunk tourists who were climbing out of the nightclubs they had spent their nights in, the sunlight the end of their night and the beginning of our first day in Paziols.

I’m in Paziols now–I have been for a few days now, as some of you may know. The snap back to the reality of what is, without a doubt, my favorite place on Earth has been more than gratifying, as I get used to my kitchen again, as the Sous-Chef picks up new words of vocabulary and teaches them to the little Turkish girls who have just arrived with hardly a word of French but an unexplainably extensive knowledge of grammar and verb conjugations.

Nearly every evening, after the kids have gone to bed and the dishes have been done, the Country Boy and I sit up in the downstairs room–he on his guitar and me typing away at a million words a minute–listening to 90s rock and waiting for the sun to rise. Now, we go to bed before it does, but sometimes I think about what it would be like to watch the sun rise over the vines instead of over the Mediterranean, of what that might look like, of if I would have the patience to let it happen before my eyes.

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This tomato paella isn’t anything like the seafood one I had in Barcelona: it’s a dish I made for the group last year that I’m only just getting around to posting, but it will definitely be making an appearance on our table again. The tomatoes turn what is one of the only dishes in which I will tolerate rice into something extraordinary. I adore the summer tomatoes here in Paziols, but when I made this, I used canned. Stay tuned for more stories, a myriad of new recipes, and the results of my experiment in following this recipe to a tee when I get my hands on some more of the garden tomatoes that our neighbor loves to foist on us, “Prends-en encore… encore… encore…

It’s very hard to turn down tomatoes.

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Tomato Paella with Chorizo
Source: Pinch My Salt

3 1/2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into thick wedges (Note: I used good canned whole tomatoes.)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 T. tomato paste
large pinch saffron threads
2 t. smoked paprika (I used a combination of hot and sweet)
2 C. arborio rice
3-4 oz. Spanish chorizo, diced
minced parsley for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Warm broth in a saucepan. Put tomatoes in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 T. olive oil. Toss to coat.

2. Put remaining 3 T. oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, saffron, and paprika and cook for a minute more. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add the chopped sausage and liquid and stir until just combined.

3. Put tomato wedges on top of rice and drizzle with remaining juices. Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven for another 5 minutes. If rice looks too dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water (or wine). When rice is ready, turn off oven and let pan sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove pan from oven and sprinkle with parsley. If you like, put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

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