Alex's mother recently gave me goulash paste and fresh, fragrant sweet paprika from Hungary. These are wonderful in this dish, but you can make it with regular tomato paste and any old sweet paprika and it will still be very good. This is a modification of the paella recipe that Mark Bittman published last year in the NYT. I have reduced the quantity—just look to his recipe if you want to make more. This recipe does require that you have a pan with a metal handle, because you have to put it in the oven and a wooden or plastic handle will not handle the heat well (sorry, I couldn't resist). If you're making the amount I suggest below, a big frying pan works well; if you're making more, then you'll need a deeper pan. It makes a beautiful, hearty and homey vegetarian main dish. You could vary the filling—the plain tomato version is quite good, and I've tried it with chickpeas, zucchini, even asparagus—but this is a great, traditionally Hungarian combination.
Serves 2 generously
1 c. arborio rice
2 c. water (or 1 c. water and 1 c. stock)
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, diced
1 vegetarian sausage (try Boca's Italian ones), chopped
1 tsp. sweet paprika (the fresher the better)
1/4 tsp. hot pepper (I like aleppo pepper), optional
pinch saffron (again, the fresher the better)
1 tbsp. tomato paste or goulash paste
salt and fresh black pepper
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. olive oil
fresh parsley, optional (but pretty)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, and heat the water and/or stock. In a bowl, drizzle the tomato wedges with the olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Toss to coat. In an all-metal pan, sauté onion, green pepper and sausage with the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, until they are softened and lightly browned (about 7-10 minutes). Add garlic, spices and paste, and sauté one more minute. Add rice and cook 1-2 minutes more, while mixing and stirring. Add liquid, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a little pepper; stir to combine and bring to a boil. When it is just starting to boil, turn off the heat and arrange the tomato wedges on top in an attractive circle. Drizzle the tomato juices at the bottom of the bowl over the top. Grind a little extra pepper over the top of the tomatoes, and carefully place the pan in the oven. After 20 minutes, check it: if the rice is not yet done, cook it a few more minutes (if the rice is not yet done, but is dry, add a little more liquid). Remember to use a thick oven mitt: the pan will be very hot! When it's done—that is, when the rice and vegetables are fully cooked and enough liquid has cooked off to make it a nice texture—return it to the oven, turn off the heat, and let it sit there for 10-15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, sprinkle with parsley if you're using it, and serve right away.
It takes about 20 minutes of active cooking and 30-40 minutes of roasting and cooling.