BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Portraits and Paella

28 Comments

Cultivating an appreciation for portrait and people photography is one thing, and actually producing decent images on the subject is another entirely. It wouldn’t matter if not for the demands of various photography classes, most of which seem to be written with only one type of student in mind. Either everyone with a camera dreams of growing up to become a high school prom photographer, or some of these lessons are really missing the mark. Where is the passion for still life and commercial photography I find myself immersed in everywhere else? Sure, those basic lighting techniques taught with any sort of subject will prove handy once applied to other disciplines of the art form, but for now, courses entitled “People Photography” sound like one full semester of torture. Forced to face this glaringly weak point in my toolbox of skills, it’s turned out to be a learning experience in more ways than expected so far.

Just before winter break, the final project for a certain “Location Lighting” class demanded numerous shots of people and things in all different places, making for a mad dash around town with unwieldy light stands and giant reflectors in tow. Ultimately, I’m pretty sure it was one particular shot, taken within the comfort of my aunt and uncle’s home, that truly secured my grade.

The take-away lesson from this experience? Make the picture about food anyway! By adding this element of interest, and with the help of my very patient and tolerant Uncle Alberto, it was no longer the same frustrating process of trying to make a scene out of nothing. Now there was a story, and a subject I knew how to work with.

And let me tell you a bit about that subject: Paella. Vegan paella, packed full of fresh vegetables and vibrant yellow grains of rice, all infused with saffron. Redolent of onions and garlic, it’s a simple yet classic dish that must not be underestimated. Though there was a more traditional, seafood-filled version on the table alongside this one, I couldn’t help but notice that everyone seemed to have at least a scoop of the veggie version on their plates, too.

That would have been the end of this story, but then, for my birthday, a wonderful gift fell into my hands… My very own paella pan.

Thank goodness I already had a tried-and-true recipe to turn to, because I wanted to fire up that stove right away! My only alteration was to add a dash of smoked paprika, because I just can’t get enough of that stuff. The beauty of this dish is that it’s endlessly versatile, and pretty much any vegetables hanging out in the fridge will do just fine. Consider throwing in a drained and rinsed can of chickpeas for a bit more protein, too.

Uncle Alberto’s Vegan Paella

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil, Divided
4 Cups Brussels Sprouts, Halved
4 Cups Other Assorted Raw Vegetables, such as Asparagus, Red Peppers, Zucchini, Mushrooms, and/or Artichoke Hearts
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Cups Medium Grain Rice
4 Cups Vegetable Broth
1 Teaspoons Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Large Pinch Saffron
2 Cups Frozen Peas

Lemon Wedges, to Serve

Saute Brussels sprouts with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper until cooked with hints of browning. Lightly saute the other vegetables for about 5 minutes and season to taste. Remove from pan and set aside.

In a paella pan or large skillet on the stove top, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the diced onion and garlic over low heat. Once translucent, add the paprika and saffron, and stir well. Add rice and saute for approximately 1 minute. Add Brussels sprouts, vegetables, and broth and bring mixture to a low boil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, stir and cover. Cook for approx 20 minutes over low-med heat until the liquid has mostly been absorbed. Add frozen peas, stir into the rice, cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve in paella dish with lemon wedges.

Makes 6 – 8 Servings

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah Kaminsky

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

28 thoughts on “Portraits and Paella

  1. Great portrait. Your uncle looks so sweet. And the paella looks amazing. BTW, I don’t think I would want you in my photography class. No offense, but you are too good.

  2. This recipe looks great! Although I think there is a typo in the ingredient least, the brother and rice are listed twice. Can’t wait to give this a try!

  3. Your uncle is adorable! Hehehe. I’m glad that you managed to find a point of interest in a class or subtopic that you were dreading. It’s not easy! Most times we just have to suffer through it, but your creativity allowed you to find some spice, so to speak, in an otherwise uninteresting topic. Well done!

    And congratulations on acquiring the pan! Woohoo! I have a question: my aunt gave me a clay pot with a lid in which she made paella once; she prepared the dish in the oven. Would you, or your uncle, know how to adapt this recipe for the oven? If not, no worries: I’ll just make do with my unfancy pan ;)

    Thank you, also, for sharing this recipe. Ever since trying vegan paella in Barcelona many years ago, I have been craving it but haven’t had a chance to replicate it. I’ve got saffron in my arsenal, though, and I think it’s time to put it to work!

  4. What a great picture of your uncle! And that paella – WOW!! I’m going to make this for my hubby, who has been hinting that I make some paella for a while now. Your recipe looks fantastic!

  5. You really did a fabulous job catching how much your darling uncle is enjoying cooking the paella. Paella…the food of gods. I saw a Jamie Oliver where he helped make this gigantic paella in a town square in Spain for the whole town. It was pretty amazing. I made Paella for 300 people once at a wedding out side on a fire with this gigantic pan. It was wonderfully fabulous. Paella…I think I need to make some soon or it will be stuck in my brain like a snippet of a catchy tune…

  6. Muy delicioso! I’ve never made paella and I think I’ve only eaten it once, but it looks so amazing in these photos.

  7. I love how you made your portraiture project highlight food as well! Totally captures your personality along with your subject’s. I find that I’m actually better at portrait photography than food. Who knew that shooting something as immobile as food could be so challenging!!

  8. That’s a gorgeous shot, Hannah! The paella looks wonderful and kudos to your uncle for being a good sport.

  9. Wonderful shot. It defintely tells a story.

  10. Congrats on the paella pan — I have one and often use it.

    The portrait of your uncle, cooking is absolutely adorable. Girl, you are great at photography!

  11. I’m going to have to make this this weekend! Without the paella pan, but a big wok will do, I think. Great portrait of your uncle too, definitely came out perfect!

  12. Keep up your strong efforts in your photography class as it is obvious you are mastering the content. Great photo of your uncle and his paella looks delicious. Great comfort food. Take care, BAM

  13. If I hadn’t already ordered chinese (and if it wasn’t already 6:30) I’d be making that tonight! I’m adding this to my “to make” list, thank you for sharing! It looks ridiculously good!

  14. that paella pan looks gorgeous! and the paella looks really appetising..all I want to do is to dig into it!

    love the story about the photo of your uncle!

  15. Your own paella pan, so you can get the crunchy bottom! Hurrah!

    Also, brussels sprouts? Wonderfully inventive! Gorgeous photo, too. You uncle looks a character :)

  16. is there a substitution for brussels sprouts?

  17. That dish looks amazing!! (and beautiful!) I love the brussels sprouts in there!

  18. Awesome portrait shot! nice way to make the class project work for you. Yummy looking paella too! :-)

  19. “make it about the food anyway” – LOVE the way you think. that’s always what it comes down to, doesn’t it? :P That paella is just gorgeous.

  20. Great photo of your uncle! The paella looks amazing. I love anything with Brussels sprouts!

  21. Vegan paella? WITH brussels sprouts? I have to pin this so I remember to make it. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  22. Pingback: A weekend, brought to you by the letter P «

  23. Pingback: Vegan Paella | Whatever Pieces

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