Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spanish Paprika

Since we started selling Spanish Paprika in the Gourmet Fusion store, I realize how popular this spice has become here in the US, and is frequently used by Food Network chefs such as Tyler Florence, Jamie Oliver and Emeril Lagasse.

Spanish cooking relies on several spices to give it its special character. One of the most indispensable is pimenton, or , which adds color and flavor to stews, soups, sausages, paella, and sauces.

Spanish paprika is similar to the Hungarian paprika which is more familiar to most people. However, the Spanish is a rich orange-red color, compared to the deep, dark red of the Hungarian paprika. They can be substituted in some recipes, but the flavors of the two are quite distinct.

Spanish paprika, with its vibrant color and flavor is frequently found in Spanish and Portuguese dishes. This finely ground brick-red spice derives from a type of dried red pepper. It is used primarily in two forms: hot (picante, or "spicy") and sweet (dulce). The Spanish also make a medium-hot paprika, labeled agridulce. Pimenton de la Vera, made from smoke-dried peppers and named for a valley in Extremadura, is especially prized.

Three types of Paprika are available in the Gourmet Fusion store at Solana Beach and online - Hot, Sweet (mild) and Smoked. All add a subtle blend of flavors to your cooking that you will not find with the Hungarian paprika. The Sweet and Hot varieties can be used for sauces, vegetables, fish, eggs, and French fries, and the Bittersweet and Smoked varieties are best used for Paella, Fabada, beef, lamb, or for use on the grill.

As with saffron,
releases its flavor as it is heated. Therefore, it can also be sprinkled over a dull dish to add color without changing the flavor. By adding paprika to a dish while it is cooking, the flavor will be released and infuse the dish with subtle flavors as it heats through.

The recipe below for Spiced Pork Kabobs (Pinchitos) is typical of the Moorish influences that abound in Andalucian cooking. Here, they are evidenced in the use of cumin and paprika.

Pinchitos (Spiced Pork Kabobs)

Serves 4
Preparation Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 15 minutes
2-3 hours Marination Time.

  • 1/4 cup (2 fl oz) olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 16 oz lean pork, cut into small cubes
  1. In a shallow dish, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, curry powder, ground cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, paprika and thyme, and mix well.
  2. Gently place the pork pieces in the dish and marinate for several hours in the refrigerator.
  3. Turn pork over periodically to ensure that all sides are equally coated.
  4. Immediately before grilling, remove the pork pieces from the marinade, and thread them on to skewers.
  5. Place the pork skewers on the hot grill, and cook, turning them until the pork is fully cooked on all sides.
  6. Serve hot, fresh from the grill with a mixed green salad, and pita bread.
The above recipe can be found in the recipe book, Paella Paella by Maria and Nalalia Solis Ballinger.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pomegranate & Orange Juice

I read a report recently based on research carried out by the University of California, Los Angeles which ranked 10 beverages by their levels of disease-fighting , and pomegranate juice was the clear winner.

The top ten list went as follows:

1. Pomegranate juice
2. Red wine
3. Concord grape juice
4. Blueberry juice
5. Black cherry juice
6. Acai juice
7. Cranberry juice
8. Orange juice
9. Tea
10. Apple juice

Well, if you are like me, and rarely eat
, trying to incorporate them into anything sounds a challenge, so I began to consider the places I know where pomegranates are a common fruit, and immediately thought of Morocco. It was in the book, Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse, that I found this recipe, and not only does it include pomegranates, but also orange juice which comes in at number eight on the list, so I guess this is really full of antioxidants. It is non-alcoholic, and ideal for the long, hot summer days ahead.

Ingredients (Serves 1)
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • Sugar to taste
  • 2 teaspoons orange-flower water (available in some supermarkets and liquor stores, and also Middle Eastern markets)
  • Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
  1. Fill a large bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half lengthwise. Holding the fruit under the water, break it apart, separating the seeds from the skin and white pith. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bowl, while the pith will float to the surface.
  2. Transfer the seeds to a colander or strainer. Rinse, removing any remaining bits of skin and pith.
  3. In a blender or juicer, puree the pomegranate seeds with the water.
  4. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve, pressing the puree with the back of a large spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
  5. Transfer to a container and stir in the orange juice, sugar, and orange-flower water.
  6. Serve over ice cubes and garnish with a mint sprig.