Ingredients We Love: PAPRIKA – “The King’s Spice”

Salinas Paprika  2.3.15“Paprika is the quintessential ingredient in Spanish cooking along with bread, wine and olive oil. It’s used in many dishes from dry-cured meats to escabeches and stews. Paprika is used in these various ways because it comes in many flavors. Unlike spicy red chili powder, which resembles paprika in color, it’s not used to interrupt or mask flavors, but to add depth to the elements on the plate. In my recipes I show how paprika is used in diverse regional Spanish cooking and in what forms it can be used: raw, cooked, in marinades, frozen, emulsified…” – Chef Luis Bollo

Capsicum Annuum is a species of plant that Christopher Columbus introduced to Spain when he returned from his second expedition to the New World. The species includes a plethora of peppers, from bells to chilies like cayenne. Columbus and his peppers were received by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella at The Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe in the Extremadura region near the Portugal border. There, peppers were first cultivated by Catholic monks and gradually became an integral part of Spanish cuisine, eventually reaching the far northeastern corner of Spain.

By the 17th century, Spaniards were incorporating the peppers into a variety of foods in a ground powdered form they called pimentón. Today, the highest quality pimentón comes from the land around the very monastery where the peppers were first unveiled to the king and queen. Strict government regulations on its production uphold the rigorous standards by which the prized ingredient is made. The finest peppers for pimentón are cultivated and milled in the temperate and rainy Tiétar River Valley in La Vera, Extremadura. Farmers harvest and dry-smoke their crops with oak wood in the fall, then turn them by hand every day for two weeks. Finally, they slowly mill their peppers under electric-powered stone wheels to produce the scarlet powder.

The predominant type of pepper in pimentón is the ñora pepper – named for the pepper-farming Ñora monks of Murcia. Its 3 main classifications are:

• Sweet (dulce)
• Bittersweeet/Medium Hot (agridulce)
• Hot (picante – the heat comes from the addition of cayenne peppers)

In the centuries since Columbus plucked the pepper from the New World and planted it in Spain, pimentón has not only become a pillar of Spanish cuisine but a genuinely global ingredient. Chef Bollo brings the indigenously American pepper back home to Salinas and reintroduces it as a smoky staple through a variety of dishes including: ANCHOAS JARDINERA, COLES Y COLIFLOR and our TERRINA DE FOIE GRAS.