One of the three most popular seasonings, paprika is the only spice that is traded strictly as a ground product and can vary in color from bright orange-red to rusty brown. It is made from the dried, ground pods of one or more sweet peppers, but if the peppers are canned or bottled we know them as pimento. These varieties of sweet peppers vary in size and shape and have a slightly different flavor depending on local soil and climatic conditions. Larger and milder than chili peppers, most commercial paprika peppers come from Hungary, Spain, South America and California. In Hungary and California, the varieties are pointed and cone shaped and in Spain they are small and round, but all these varieties are much milder than their tropical ancestors from South America.
Like all capsicums, the paprika varieties were originally a tropical plant native to South America. Paprika was introduced to the Spanish explorers by natives of Hispaniola during Columbus’ second voyage to the New World in 1493. The seeds were taken back to Europe where it became “sweet” paprika. Brought to Hungary by the Turks in the 17th century probably from a Portuguese settlement in Central Asia, the spice became commonly used there at the end of the 18th century. Later, a French chef introduced it to western European cuisine in the kitchens of the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo as the “Hungarian spice.”
Paprika ranges from sweet and mild to hot with the general rule being the redder the color, the milder the spice, so a yellow tone is hot and very spicy. Paprika may be used as a seasoning or as a garnish. As a seasoning, its flavor is compatible with hot and spicy dishes, but it also gives a little lift to dishes such as mild stews and may be used freely with most recipes calling for at least a teaspoon rather than a pinch like cayenne pepper. Paprika is used in seasoning blends for barbeque, snack foods, chili and the cuisines of India, Morocco, Europe and the Middle East plus is essential to goulash and Hungarian paprikash. It enhances vegetables, bread crumb toppings, toasted cheese sandwiches and combined with butter makes a quick baste for roast turkey. Since it releases its color and flavor only when heated, if you want to color a dish, stir the paprika into a little hot oil before adding, but remember that it has significant amounts of sugar and must not be overheated or it will turn bitter. Commercial food manufacturers use paprika where a deep red color is desired such as cheeses, meat products and processed foods. Paprika is also an emulsifier and helps to make a smooth mixture of oil and vinegar for salad dressing. As a garnish, it improves the appearance of almost any savory dish, but does little for their flavor. However, some dishes like deviled eggs just wouldn’t be the same without paprika!
Paprika deteriorates quickly,
so purchase in small quantities
and store in a cool, dark place
for no more than 6 months
WALNUT PAPRIKA DIP
1 slice bread
1c chicken stock
1tsp ground coriander
pinch of cayenne
salt and fresh lemon juice to taste
Soak bread in 4Tbs chicken broth, then squeeze dry. Add to food processor with walnuts and puree slowly adding the remaining broth. Add seasoning and blend again. Sprinkle dip with additional paprika. Serve with crudités such as Belgian endive, red peppers and zucchini.
PAPRIKA ROASTED POTATOES
6 unpeeled red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch round slices
1 small onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a skillet, add onion and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Add paprika and salt, sautéing for about two minutes. Slice potatoes and toss with paprika mixture stirring to coat potatoes in a casserole dish. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, uncovered.
1pkg of refrigerated breadstick dough
Sprinkle the flattened breadstick dough with paprika, twist and bake at 375 degrees for 12 mins.
“And God said, See I have given you every herb
that yields seed which is on the face of the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
to you it shall be for food. “