I created this meatless paella for some vegetarian friends and for my first Primal Grill TV show. For a really dramatic presentation, fire up two kettle grills. Use one for cooking the rice and the second one for grilling the vegetables. Or use a large charcoal grill, like a Weber Ranch, or a large gas grill. If your grill space is limited, grill the vegetables first (this could even be done at a previous grill session) and grill the paella to order.
Find the non-vegetarian version version here.
Step 1: Place the saffron in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons warm water. Let soak for 5 minutes.
Step 2: Set up your grill for direct grilling and build a 3-zone fire. In the best of all possible worlds, you’d build and work over a campfire. Alternatively, you’d work on a large charcoal grill (like a Weber Ranch) or gas grill. If working on a charcoal grill, toss a log or some wood chunks on the fire to generate smoke. If working on a gas grill, place the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch.
Step 3: Place the paella pan over the hottest part of your fire. Add the olive oil and a piece of onion and heat until the onion sizzles boisterously in the oil. Add the remaining onion and red bell pepper and cook over high heat, stirring with a long-handled implement, like a grill hoe, until the onions begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and tomato halfway through (after 2 minutes). If the mixture starts to burn, slide the pan to a cooler part of the grill.
Step 4: Stir in the rice and sauté until the grains look shiny, 1 minute. Add the garbanzo beans and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the soaked saffron and wine and boil for 1 minute. Stir in 4 cups stock and adjust the heat (by moving the paella pan closer or further away from hot part of the fire) to obtain a gentle simmer. Gently simmer the rice until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the 5th cup of stock if needed, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Step 5: Meanwhile, lightly brush the mini bell peppers, onion, zucchini, yellow squash, and, tomatoes with olive oil. Season on both sides with salt and pepper and sprinkle with herbs. On another part of the fire (if working on a campfire, position your Tuscan grill over the embers), grill the peppers, onion zucchini, yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, and garlic until golden brown—even darkly browned—on the outside and tender. This will take 3 to 6 minutes per side, depending on the vegetable—the peppers and onion will take longer than zucchini and tomatoes. You may have to work over a lower heat (or at the edge of the grill) for the garlic—it should be tender and browned, but not burnt. In the event you have been obsessive enough to skewer the peas, place on the grill and grill until lightly browned and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
Step 6: The last 5 minutes of cooking the paella, stir the vegetables into the rice, removing and discarding the skewers. (Slip the burned skins off the garlic.) Taste the paella for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. If you’ve done this right and the stars are in alignment, the rice will be tender just as all the stock is absorbed and the vegetables are cooked. You may need to add more stock or you may need to cook the rice a little longer to absorb any excess stock. Get ready for the second best paella on Planet Barbecue.