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Chickpea, Olive & Orzo Paella with Scarlett Runner Beans

As the weather cools down and life settles back into the routine of schoolwork, kids sports & weeknights filled with laundry, fighting for who gets the first hot showers (this old house has the world's smallest hot water tank), and driving back and forth from various engagements, the food we eat tends to change and I like that. The stove and oven which are completely avoided through the hot summer months are all of a sudden full of creative possibility, and the cupboards are opened to reveal spices, pulses, grains & root veggies all perfectly ready to warm the belly with warm sustenance and nourishment.

This recipe is inspired entirely by a good friend's restaurant, which is one of the few spots in town that offers all the things I love under one roof: great vegetarian options, killer coffee, and hospitality that is hard to match anywhere, ever. Cafe Medina is a Vancouver classic and one weekend not long ago I set out to replicate their delicious paella dish in a simple, easy to follow recipe that likely uses items you've got in your cupboards right now. I'm positive there are authentic elements that are missing here, but this dish doesn't miss it and neither will you (I swear). It's better the longer it sits too, so whip it up on a Sunday and eat it through the week. Cook your chickpeas from scratch too if you like and keep those costs down. If you've yet to cook chickpeas from scratch, I challenge you to do it --- you will seriously wonder why you ever used canned. Head here for some easy to follow instructions.


In other news, there are rumblings here in my heart of more changes to come. I waffle here and there between feeling completely tapped creatively to feeling a growing & powerful urge to put pen to paper a little more seriously. I'm getting there slowly but am still finding my way with balancing my new work reality (which is a great challenge and I am loving it immensely) with my creative pursuits. I'd have it no other way. Blog changes are coming, and I feel painfully grateful for the insanely generous people I am lucky to know. Life is evolving. Many of the parts of me that I'd misplaced in past years are being naturally uncovered again as I find wholeness in who I am in a new and wonderful way. Music has taken on new meaning again (not to sound corny but Ryan Adams may have something to do with this), and I feel a sense of coming home. It's good to be here, and I am humbled and grateful for getting older. May you find (just a little) peace and serenity in your place in life, wherever you are, for I am starting to believe that this might be all we are after anyway: permission and grace to be just who we are.

Chickpea, Olive & Orzo Paella with Scarlett Runner Beans:

  • 2 cups orzo (I use spelt orzo)
  • 2 cups chopped Scarlett Runner beans or green beans, cut into one-inch pieces
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chilli powder
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3/4 to 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup each fresh cilantro & parsley
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 avocado for garnish per serving

Start by gathering all the ingredients and putting up a large pot of water to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the dry orzo and stir. Leave at a rolling boil and cook according to package directions (or just under as you will cook this later in the pan too). While the pasta cooks, put up another pot of water to boil for the beans and tomato seeding. Trim & cut the beans into one inch pieces and add to the water. Once it boils, cook the beans, keeping them covered at a low boil, for 6-7 minutes (1-2 minutes less for regular green beans) and add the whole tomatoes to the covered pan in the last 2 minutes. This will soften the skin on the tomatoes and make them easy to peel. Once cooked, remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain the beans and place them in an ice bath.

To remove tomato skins once removed from boiling water, simply run under cold water to cool. Using a knife, knick the skin to puncture and use your hands to peel off the skin while running under the water.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. Prepare the onion, pepper, spices, garlic (if using), and cooked chickpeas. Peel and chop the tomatoes and set aside.

To make the paella, heat the olive oil in a large pan or even better, a wok. Add the chopped onion and cook for 3-5 minutes. Next, add the garlic, chilli powder, salt & chopped red pepper and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is hot and fragrant. Add the cooked orzo, chickpeas, tomatoes, olives and vegetable broth and stir until well mixed. Cook for 5 minutes or so on medium high until the broth has reduced and the mixture is piping hot. You may want to add more broth during the cooking time depending on how quickly the liquid evaporates. Serve hot, topped with chopped fresh herbs, black pepper to taste, more olives, a drizzle of olive oil, and slices of ripe avocado. If you want, there may even be room for a little feta on top too.

Enjoy these nights as the weather cools and our routines bring calm and order back to our days. XO

Chickpea, Olive & Orzo Paella with Scarlett Runner Beans

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