I’ve made the wonderfully textured and colorful “Veggie Paella with Saffron & Orange,” from Veggie Num Num. I failed to achieve the coveted “crustiness” of a proper paella (!), but I was a winner with deep flavors -- not bad for a vegetarian rice dish.

The scent of saffron will always be magical and mesmerizing. As soon as you soak that little pinch in the hot water, you unleash its powers. I roasted chunks of orange-colored kabocha squash. My arborio rice absorbed the first half of vegetable stock in 5 minutes; I added 1 tsp. kosher salt. After adding the second half of stock and the snap peas, I simmered for 12 minutes. I then added the roasted squash. After that, the rice was tender in 10 more minutes.

Thank you saffron and tomato paste, for adding your beautiful colors to this paella. The crunchy bits of pistachio were a good match for the dish too. Intrigued by the suggested dollop of aioli, I instead stirred some incredible dukkah (an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts, spices, and herbs) into a bit of mayonnaise, and found the right amount of tang and cream to top my serving of paella. Quite brilliant, really.

PRICES
Kabocha Squash (2 lbs.) = $2.50
Onion (1) = .33¢
Saffron Threads (1/4 tsp.) = $5.07
Sugar Snap Peas (4 oz.) = .67¢
Pistachios (1 oz.) = .69¢

RECIPE: knock yourself out with a deeply flavored rice and squash paella
PREP TIME:
devote at least an hour to prep and cooking
TASTE: roasted squash is potently sweet, snap peas are greenly crisp, and the orange/onion/garlic/tomato paste/saffron/pistachios build a wall of flavor intensity

I’ll continue to coast on the vegetarian path. Next time, I’ll cook the “Warming Onion & White Bean Bake,” from thestonesoup.com, along with a “Cold Soba, Sesame and Carrot Salad,” inspired by thekitchn.com. See this magnificent meal when you come back to my site on Monday, June 20.