Saffron Bulgur Paella

Couscous, Fish, Main Course, Mediterranean, Seafood, Spanish

Hi Fran!

I have a tendency to set myself up for a stressful situation every time I invite people over for dinner. As I have come to realize, I always decide to try a new recipe for such occasions, resulting in a surprise for both the guests and myself every time. In theory this sounds like a great idea, because the stack of recipes I collect keeps increasing, and it is a good excuse to try them out. In practice, always stressful.

  1. I never know if the recipe is to be trusted blindly
  2. I never know how the food will come out tasting
  3. I never know what the precised cooking time will be, to plan getting ready accordingly

I think I mentioned this to you before, at the end of February, I went back to Greece for the weekend. As I was only going to be home for a couple days, I decided to have my friends over for dinner so that I would definitely see all of them. That night I decided to cook paella, that was the one and only dish served that night, along with a nice fresh field greens salad. I thought, it would be a real treat for all of us. Nice fresh seafood, saffron, Spanish deliciousness… I did not think once all about the difficulty and intricacy that cooking with these ingredients. It came out, very very average. The flavors were on, but the rice was too sticky, the saffron was not powerful enough, and overall it was too heavy and dense a meal. Of course we all ate it and had a great time, which I think I have abundant wine to thank for.

So yesterday, after a lot of inner debating, I decided to try making paella again. This time however, I was going to do it the express Matina-way. As a reference recipe, I turned to my favorite UK food magazine for their Delicious – Saffron paella with squid and roasted red peppers. The photo looked delicious, the ingredients sound delicious… aside from the rice. I wanted something slightly fluffier, so I went for bulgur wheat (we call it πλιγούρι (pligouri), it is the whole version of couscous).

Saffron, it is one of the most amazing flavoring agents out there. It has an exquisite aroma, beautiful gold color and pairs amazingly with seafood! I used Greek Saffron, called Krokos Kozanis. It comes from beautiful flowers which are cultivated in Kozani. Saffron has been used in Greece since antiquity, mostly for its medicinal virtues. Today, Krokos Kozanis is deemed as being of excellent quality, and resides among the best in the world. (For more information, Kopiaste has a great post on it, and a delicious saffron rice pudding recipe!) … back to paella.

Saffron Bulgur Paella

(very heavily adapted from Delicious magazine’s Saffron paella with squid and roasted red peppers)


  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Large pinch of saffron (10-15 strands)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup chopped vine-ripened tomatoes, skinned (about 5 medium small)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 roasted red peppers and cut into strips
  • 300-350g (12 oz. pack) Mixed seafood (Mussels, shrimp, calamari)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the saffron, remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry for 5-6 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, tomato and paprika and fry for another 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the bulgur wheat, add the saffron-infused stock and bring to the boil. Stir once, then lower the heat to a simmer and leave the rice to cook uncovered, without stirring, for 10 minutes. Stir in the pepper strips and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes until the stock has all been absorbed and the bulgur wheat is tender.
  4. Shortly before the bulgur wheat is ready, add the seafood to the paella. Cook until heated through.
  5. Sprinkle with the chopped fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over.

I know you don’t eat seafood(aside from fish), so perhaps you could make this with chicken, or even vegetables… some eggplant or zucchini would be amazing… actually oooh yumm!

Also, I would love to try this with:

  • Giant couscous, also known as Israeli couscous
  • Quinoa
  • … once I muster up the courage, arborio rice 🙂

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I ♥ Heart ♥ Tomatoes

Appetizer, Mediterranean, Soup, Vegetarian

I heart ♥ tomatoes.

My sister hearts tomatoes too.  We are a family that is somewhat addicted to tomatoes and can easily use 20 tomatoes in a week.

I very clearly remember opening the refrigerator as a young girl looking for a snack mid-afternoon and reaching into the vegetable drawers to grab A TOMATO!  Yes, we were and still are a healthy family.  A dear friend of mine who has many fond memories of us growing up together reminds me every single time we meet about how I used to snack on celery, which he hated, instead of having a brownie or a meringue.  I clearly remember visiting my family here in Miami when I was a little-er girl and eating tomatoes as a snack sprinkled with a little bit of salt. I am sure that if you ask my cousins about this, they will remember.

Mati, I hope you had a fantastic weekend and I cannot wait to see the Botanical Garden pictures that you told me about.  I love flowers too and Botanical Gardens are a special place. Last year A and I spent 3 days in Montreal in June and we visited their spectacular Garden and few weeks ago we also visited the Morikami Japanese Gardens in Boca.  Gardens are such a special place right?

Fran at the Botanical Gardens in Montreal

Back to tomatoes ehh?

I got the cravings for tomatoes.  I could eat a tomato with every single one of my meals, and I almost do!

I told you about this really amazing book that I got a few weeks ago, Appetizers Finger Food Buffets and Parties, and last week I decided to give it a try.


Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalusia.  Gazpacho is mostly consumed during the summer months, due to its refreshing qualities, and yes, we are in summer mode in Miami already, even though we woke up to torrential rains this morning and had Flood Advisory warnings.  But summer is here.

Gazpacho is easy, and now that you have a blender it will be your next favorite summer soup.


  • 2 slices day-old bread
  • 600 ml/ 2 1/2 cups chilled water
  • 1 kg/2 1/4 lbs tomatoes (I used 7 roma tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber peeled and seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped– I also added some yellow peppers.
  • 1 fresh green chilli, seeded and chopped (I could not find– just used a hot pepper)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • few drops of Tabasco sauce
  • salt and ground pepper
  • handful of fresh basil for garnish
  • 1 ripe avocado (Hass avocados for superior flavor)
  • Croutons a la Matina


  1. Make the soup first.  Place the bread in a shallow bowl and cover with water. Let it soak for about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for about 30 seconds, then peel, seed, and chop. I do not mind the seeds so I did not seed it.
  3. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half length-ways. Scoop out the seeds and chop.
  4. Place the soaked bread, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, garlic, oil, lemon and lime juices, Tabasco and some water in the food processor or blender, and blend until mixed but still chunky. (*I think that the 2 1/2 cups of water is a lot and did not add it all.  I wanted mine not to be too watery. Play with the amount until you get it just right!*)
  5. Season with Salt and Pepper
  6. You can add croutons if you want and follow the Croutons a la Matina recipe or just buy them from the supermarket.
  7. Place the gazpacho in the refrigerator to chill.
  8. Just before serving cut up the avocado and toss it with some lemon juice to prevent it from turning brown.
  9. When you are ready to eat serve the gazpacho and garnish with basil avocado and serve the croutons separately.


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