Paella del Mar Serves 6
Paella, the signature dish of Spanish cuisine, is probably the most widely interpreted dish in the world, even in its homeland of Valencia, where paella was introduced in the 13th century. Paella is actually the name of a shallow, flat-bottomed pan in which the dish is traditionally prepared. The original recipe featured chicken, rabbit, snails, beans and eels (plentiful in the vast marshes) and was cooked outdoors over a wood fire. Many purists insist this is the only way to achieve the true flavors and texture. It was heartily adopted by neighbors to the north and around Barcelona. From there its interpretation expanded, with fishermen and restaurateurs proudly showing off local seafood.

In keeping with paella philosophy, use only a good-quality short-grain rice such as arborio, Valencia or rose. When cooked, the plump grains are moist and chewy inside and remain dry on the outside. Cooking outdoors does add an exquisite nuance, but stovetop preparations are usually more convenient. Use two burners if necessary, rotating the pan regularly for even cooking. If possible, use a gas stovetop as opposed to electric to avoid hot spots and burned rice. Serve paella directly from the pan and enjoy it with good friends, good music and good wine.

Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1 hour

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
24 mussels, scrubbed and sorted
2 cups diced onion
3 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
12 ounces monkfish or other firm-fleshed white fish
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups boiling fish stock
1 cup dry vermouth
1 recipe Paella Picada made with three tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup cooked white beans
1 cup green beans and/or peas
3 artichoke hearts, quartered
Lemon wedges and parsley to garnish

1. Heat oil in a paella pan or wide, heavy-bottomed sauté pan. Sauté shrimp over medium-high heat just until they begin to turn pink, about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside. Do the same with the mussels, removing them just as their shells pop open. Discard any that don't open.

2. Sauté onion and tomatoes 7 to 10 minutes. Add monkfish and cook about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook another 5 minutes.

3. Add stock, vermouth, Paella Picada, beans, peas and artichoke hearts to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer approximately 15 minutes, until rice is done but still slightly chewy. Don't stir as it cooks. Your paella will be more authentic with the rich, crusty brown layer that forms on the bottom. Take care, though, not to let it burn. If necessary, add a little more stock or reduce the heat.

4. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the shrimp, mussels and all accumulated seafood juices to the top layer of rice to rewarm. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving to meld flavors. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley.

Paella Picada Yields enough for 1 paella recipe
The essence of paella, picada is a seasoning paste ground in a mortar and pestle. The key ingredient is saffron, which gives paella its vibrant yellow color and sultry flavor. This is a basic recipe but you can alter ingredients to complement the flavors of your paella.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

1 tablespoon paprika
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron or 3 teaspoons saffron threads
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Grind all ingredients in a mortar and pestle, food processor or blender until it forms a paste. Use to season your paella.

(Note: Nutrition information for Paella Picada is calculated within each paella recipe.)

How to Make Perfect Paella 1. Clean mussels under running water using a knife to remove the "beard" -- seaweed clinging to the shell.

2. Grind ingredients for picada -- a special seasoning mixture -- to a paste using a mortar and pestle.

3. Sauté mussels over medium-high heat just until their shells pop open. Discard any that don't open.

4. Add stock with the vermouth, picada and vegetables. Simmer 15 minutes.