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Bean-Pebbled Paella

A colorful rice with a pebbled appearance (that's how it got its name), obtained from the abundance of different-colored beans that make up this paella. The black beans are particularly striking. Aside from a touch of ham, this is strictly a vegetable paella.

2/3 cup EACH canned chickpeas, pinto beans, red beans and black beans (reserve all the can liquid except from the black beans)
About 41/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 bunches scallions (about 1/2 pound), finely chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
3 cups washed, dried and chopped Swiss chard leaves
6 tablespoons diced ham, preferrably prosciutto or serrano
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 teaspoons sweet pimenton or paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cups Spanish or Arborio short-grain rice
Coarse salt

Preheat the oven: 400 degrees for a gas oven, 450 degrees for electric.

Drain the beans and reserve the liquid from all the cans except the black beans. Rinse the beans. Combine the bean liquid in a pot with enough broth to make 6 cups. Add the saffron and keep hot over the lowest heat.

Heat the oil in a paella pan measuring 17 to 18 inches at its widest point (or in a shallow casserole of a similar size), over 2 burners if necessary. Saute the scallions, garlic, red peppers, Swiss chard and ham over medium heat until the peppers are slightly softened. Add the tomato and parsley, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, then add the paprika and cumin.

Stir in the rice and coat well with the pan mixture. Pour in the hot broth and bring to a boil. Add the beans, taste for salt, and continue to boil, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the rice is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains to continue cooking the rice, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, 10 to 12 minutes in a gas oven, 15 to 20 minutes electric, until the rice is almost al dente. Remove to a warm spot, cover with foil, and let sit 5-10 minutes, or until the rice is done to taste.

"Paella!" by Penelope Casas

Thursday, March 16, 2000

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