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Valentines'24 Dinner for 2 Inspiration: Meal Four ~ Paella, Tapas, Sangria

This week’s inspiration is a clear win - and a recipe to add to your repertoire.  It’s good to learn a few core recipes, the ones you memorize - and a good paella is a solid candidate.  We found and tried a recipe that leverages what you have in the fridge or the pantry - a traditional Spanish paella, some tapas, and a bottle of sangria to wash it down.

Keeping on the theme of ‘simplicity, romance and fun’ - this dish hits all the marks.  The kitchen will smell amazing, the dish can be relatively light, yet rich in flavor - use it to elicit conversations of travels far away, then further it with ideas to travel with your partner in the near future.

Paella elicits such thoughts - the smell of slow-cooked rice, along with saffron, olive oil, garlic, peppers…

This recipe takes inspiration from a standard, but we were going for the taste of the sea.  So our proteins were that - substituting chicken with mussels and scallops.  We used a light amount of chorizo, instead of the pound it called for - going for lighter, but not sacrificing flavor.  Comment if you have other ways you like to make your paella…

ASG Simple Paella

Serves 4 - 6, Time 60m

Ingredients - in order of use

Olive Oil - we’ve been using a robust version, about 4 tablespoons suffice

3 cloves garlic, crushed and sliced

1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes

2 cups of paella, short-grain white rice, or, we were only able to approximate with Goya’s Arroz Amarillo (a Spanish-style yellow rice)

Pinch of saffron - or, safflower to substitute

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon dried or fresh parsley

3 cups of chicken stock (not broth)

1 medium lemon, about a teaspoon of zest from it

½ pound of shrimp

6 mussels

8 medium-sized scallops

1 medium red bell pepper, pulp removed, and diced similar to your chopped onion

1 yellow (or Spanish onion) chopped

OptionalSun-dried tomatoes

Jarred diced pimento


Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; once it’s brought to temperature, stir in your garlic and red pepper flakes.  Allow this to color in the pan for a minute or two - do not toast or burn.  Mix in the rice and stir until it is fully coated in the oil.  Control your heat.

Add saffron (or safflower), bay leaf, parsley, chicken stock, and lemon zest.  Stir until well combined.  Monitor and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cover, which will bring it to a simmer - allow this to go for 20 minutes.

As the rice is cooking, heat more olive oil in a separate skillet.  Cook your proteins - in this case, we cooked our shrimp, then scallops, then mussels in the leftover fond with a bit of water and butter.  Set aside, near the stove to keep them warm.  In the same skillet with the leftover mussel liquid, we simmer our red peppers to soften them up.

After removing the red peppers, clean the skillet and re-oil - bringing it back to medium heat.  Re-introduce the red pepper and onions - allow the latter to get translucent.  Add chorizo and allow it to cook - we like to drain any liquid before introducing it into the rice.

After the rice has cooked over 20m, check the process - the rice should be well cooked, settled, and golden in color.  Add the red pepper, onion, and chorizo to the top of the rice - fluff the top layer with a fork to lightly mix the rice with this mixture.  Top this with the shrimp, mussels, and scallops - arranging evenly across the surface.  Watch your time, and gauge the rice by a light amount of steam through the process - if it dries, check on it.

We like to re-lid and heat on high for about 3 minutes, covered.  Turn off heat, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  This will ensure the entirety of the paella is at the same temperature, you should also have a light layer of burnt rice on the bottom.

On serving, you will scoop deep into the rice and ensure an even mix of rice and proteins.

Tapas - you can make anything a tapas, essentially what’s considered a ‘small plate’, but the Spanish made it an eatable art form.  Be creative and have fun, make mistakes, and try different flavors.

Ingredients - as desired, or as you have

Crostini - French Bread, then cut into slices, allow to dry, then toast for color

Mozzarella - sliced thin

Tomatoes - as above

Olive Oil - as before, we use robust oil for the deeper flavor notes

Shrimp - cooked and peeled, preferably chilled

Caviar - only a small scoop is necessary

Cherry Peppers - harder to find these days, but I love these with anything

Mustard & Dill Sauce (Swedish) - we got ours at Ikea

Butter Lettuce - a very versatile item that we had leftover from some lettuce wraps earlier in the week


Not to belabor a thing here, but take your base ingredients and layer them artistically.  For ours, we plated combinations, only ensuring we had oil, sauce, or spices on the bread - then layered our toppings.  You really can’t go wrong.

A dipping sauce can also be made with a combination of olive oil, garlic, red pepper, black pepper, and oregano.

Sangria - we picked up a bottle and served chilled with orange and strawberry garnish.

Enjoy with some lively Spanish guitar.

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