I have to confess initial ignorance of paprika. I am one of those sad souls who’d used it only as a garnish for deviled eggs, thinking it added color and only a little bit of flavor. Then I learned about the spice’s strengths from two connoisseurs.
Carolyn Banfalvi, author of “Food Wine Budapest” (Little Bookroom, 2008), told me that Hungarians use tons of paprika in their cooking. They do it in “scoops rather than in the pinches,” she says.
Hungarian paprika comes from the areas of Szeged and Kalocsa, in the country’s southern part. It varies in color from deep reddish-brown to bright orange, in intensity from sweet to very hot, and in texture from finely ground to coarse, Banfalvi explained. Hungarians generally cook with sweet paprika, but they always keep a little container of hot paprika on the table so people can add their own heat.
Read more about paprika in my column here.
And then try this lovely recipe by Chef Jose Andres:
Smoked paprika flavors sofrito, a sauce that Andres says has launched a thousand recipes. The key to this one is the onion: It should be cooked enough to smell sweet. The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. It’s adapted from Andres’ 2005 cookbook, “Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.”
Catalan Tomato and Onion Sauce (Sofrito)
- 10 ripe plum tomatoes or 5 large tomatoes
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin oil
- 4 small onions, chopped fine, or 2 large onions
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
- 2 to 3 bay leaves
- Additional salt, to taste
Cut the tomatoes in half.
Place a grater over a large mixing bowl. Rub the cut side of the tomato into the grater until the flesh is grated. Discard skin. Strain the mixture. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onions, sugar and salt. Cook uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are tender and light brown. (Add a tablespoon or two of water, as often as needed, to cook the onion evenly without burning.)
Add the reserved tomatoes, bay leaves and the paprika. Cook for 20 more minutes at medium heat. Add salt, to taste. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups.
GIVEAWAY — The fantastic folks at Myspicesage.com have agreed to giveaway loads of paprika for A Life of Spice readers. In fact, we will be giving away a collection of – Hungarian Paprika, Hot Hungarian Paprika, Smoked Spanish Paprika & Sweet Spanish Paprika to one lucky winner!
To win – leave a comment here AND tell your friends on FB or Twitter about this giveaway. Tell us why you like paprika and how you cook with it!
A winner will be picked on March 30th at 4:00 pm.
US and Canada only please.
The gorgeous photo of paprika was taken for this site by Some Rathore.