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Walnut Paella Salad {vegan, gluten-free}

Back when I was in language school in Cuernavaca Mexico, my host family‘s next door neighbor invited us to his catered 50th birthday fiesta. I spoke enough Spanish to graciously accept shots of their 100% agave, but not enough to carry on a conversation. As I enjoyed their hospitality, out of the corner of my eye I watched the caterer stir saffron seasoned broth into round starchy rice. She layered in various meats and shellfish as the rice plumped. It’s true, rabbit tastes like chicken. Unlike this walnut paella salad, a saffrony summery twist on classic, the paella that night was decidedly not vegetarian.

Walnut Paella Salad--Steamed Saffron Tomato Rice

Steamed Saffron Tomato Rice for Walnut Paella Salad

The USA Rice Federation has a recipe for a seafood paella salad with spiced walnuts on their website, which gave me idea for this meatless version, saffron rice generously laden with green olives, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, edamame and spiced walnuts. The whole combinations is delicious.

Walnut paella salad will be a standout on potluck party tables—go for the win. In hot weather, or any time you crave a light main course meal, serve over mixed salad greens, garnished with a sprinkling of spiced walnuts. Enjoy graciously with 100% agave tequila.

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Walnut Paella Salad
Saffron rice:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup short grain rice (brown or risotto rice)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (if you are using risotto rice, use only 1 1/2 cups stock)
  • 1 cup tomato or V-8 type vegetable juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
Add ins:
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts , cut in halves or quarters
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
  • 1 cup cooked organic shelled edamame beans
Spiced Walnuts
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Make the rice:
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and the onion and cook and stir until both the onion and the rice begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir another minutes.
  2. Stir in the vegetable stock, the tomato juice, and the saffron, bay leaf, salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to very low.
  3. Cook until the rice is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed, at least one hour, especially at 7000 feet above sea level. Let the rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn out into a large bowl and remove the bay leaf.
The vinaigrette:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the garlic, mustard and sherry vinegar. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil, whisking. Season with the salt and pepper, to taste, then stir in the cilantro and parsley. Pour over the rice.
  2. Add the artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans and edamame, stir well. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Spiced Walnuts:
  1. Drop the walnuts into boiling water, turn off heat and let stand 2 minutes; drain. Heat oil in a large skillet, add the nuts and cook over medium-high heat until toasted, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar, salt, cumin and pepper over the nuts and toss to coat.
  2. To serve, stir in half of the spiced walnuts.
  3. Sprinkle more spiced walnuts over the top to garnish.

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