There’s not much I love more than cooking a meal and sharing it with friends, but put us on a beach with an open fire, some rosé, and that gorgeous light right before sunset, and it’s my absolute favorite way to spend an evening.
Our little beach town of Amagansett is filled with so many creative people who often share an appreciation for community, food, and living as local as possible by supporting the farms and fishermen of the town. When I came across Athena’s gorgeous site, Eyeswoon, and Instagram, and saw that she too spends a lot of time in Amagansett, I knew we had to meet and I knew we would have so much in common with food and the likes.
After exchanging emails for a few months, Athena and I finally got a chance to meet at the beginning of the summer, somewhat serendipitously, at the Saveur blog awards that I was attending and she was speaking at. Within the first few minutes of us chatting, Athena suggested that we get together in Amagansett and cook paella on the beach …. Yes! I love it. A girl after my own heart.
Michael and I have made paella many times, and we cookout on the beach many many nights throughout the summer, but this was the first time that I was going to cook paella on the beach. In Spain, paella is often cooked and enjoyed on the beach, and I cannot picture a better setting for this meal. It’s less intimidating than you would think to cook paella on the beach, in fact, as long as you build a good area for your fire and sturdy place to rest your paella pan over the flame, the rest is fairly simple.
Athena and I started off our day at our local farm stand and collected the veggies and seafood for our dinner. We prepped the meal at my home, then loaded up our cars with cookout essentials, and set up our meal on a nearby beach. Athena brought some gorgeous beach-inspired blankets, pillows, linens, plates, silverware, and we also made sure we had ingredients to make a honey-lavender rosé sangria (recipe coming later this week!), and a few light bites to snack on. We collected rocks from around the beach to build the fire, and brought a grill grate to place on top of the rocks which would hold our paella pan just above the flame. Once the pan was good and hot, we started cooking and not long after we were enjoying delicious paella with our toes in the sand. The evening couldn’t be more perfect, except for the fact that it was sweltering hot that day, but once the sun started to set and that gorgeous early evening light came around, the setting could not be more perfect for dinner on the beach with new friends.
For more on this story, and the details on the decor ..... check out Athena’s post on her blog | http://eye-swoon.com/sand-sea-paella-cookout/
Photography by Sarah Elliott | http://www.sarahelliottphotography.com
vegetable paella + grilled prawns
extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 large zucchini, sliced thin into 1” long pieces
1 green + 1 yellow pepper, sliced thin
1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of oyster mushrooms, sliced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of thyme, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, minced
2 cups of arboro rice
8 plum tomatoes, grated
2 links of fresh chorizo, sliced (optional)
4 cups of (homemade) vegetable broth or chicken broth or water
3-4 generous pinches of saffron
a few lemon wedges for serving
optional for serving: some roasted red peppers (sliced thin), chives
for the prawns:
4-6 large prawns, with shells, tossed with olive oil, salt + pepper
equipment: a 15” round paella pan
Start by making the sofrito (cooking the vegetables):
- Heat the paella pan over an open flame on an even, flat surface. You want your flame to be not too large, but not too small. Also, make sure you have twigs nearby to feed the fire if it gets too small. You can also make this over a gas grill or stove. Heat it over medium-high heat, and make sure there is even heat distribution under the pan.
- Add a generous amount of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Then, add the leeks and cook for about 2 minutes, until tender. Then, add the zucchini and peppers and cook for another 2 minutes, while stirring. Then add the mushroom. When all of the vegetables are soft, season them with a couple of pinches of salt, toss, and then push them to the outer edges of the pan creating a circle in the center. Add a little more olive oil in that circle and then add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add and the rice, toast it, and then add the broth:
- Pour the rice into the center of the pan. Add another drizzle of olive oil over the rice, and then stir well to incorporate everything. Keep stirring for a couple of minutes and then add the grated tomatoes and stir some more to incorporate the tomatoes.
- Keep stirring continuously for about 5 minutes to continue to toast the rice and develop the flavors. Add a little more olive oil if it starts sticking to the pan.
- Once the rice has a nice light brown color, then add in the chorizo (if you’re using) and toss to coat. Then add the broth and stir to be sure the vegetables and rice are evenly distributed. Lastly add 3-4 generous pinches of saffron and give it once last stir.
- At point you should leave the paella be and let the rice cook. After a few minutes, taste the broth (but be careful, it will be very hot!). Add more seasoning if need be. Also, if you’re cooking over an open flame, make sure the fire is not too hot. You do not want to burn the bottom, but rather you want to create a nice edible crust on the bottom and you do this by making sure it is hot enough to boil the water but not too hot to burn. You can move the rice around and check to make sure it is not burning underneath if you think your flame is too hot. If you are cooking this on a gas grill or stove, you would lower the temperature just slightly at this point, but the water should still be boiling / bubbling.
- Cook the paella until all of the rice has been absorbed the broth, and the edges are starting to get crisp and are pulling from the sides. Ideally, this is when you want to have a slight crust developing at the bottom of the rice.
While the paella is finishing, cook the prawns:
- If you only have one fire to do this, you will want to wait until your paella is cooked. Otherwise, if you have room, you can do it when your paella has about 5 more minutes to go. In a separate, medium sized pan, add a little olive oil and then add the shrimp. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
Serve the paella and prawns:
- Spoon the paella into individual bowls, and place a prawn on top. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice, and any of the additional toppings you like.