How does an ingredient earn its way onto The Perfect Pantry's permanent shelf space? One of two ways: It must be something I use in many recipes, or something indispensable to one treasured recipe I make over and over again. The premise of this blog always has been to encourage you to buy an ingredient called for in one recipe by promising to share more ways to use that ingredient. Have you tried smoked paprika yet?
Like cumin but a bit sweeter, smoked paprika (pimentón de la Vera) imparts a slightly husky flavor to any dish. Grown only in a small area of Southwest Spain along the La Vera River, and dried over hand-tended fires, it comes in three varieties: sweet (dulce), bittersweet (agridulce), and hot (picante). If you're going to buy only one, buy the sweet, as it's the most all-purpose. Once an "exotic" ingredient, it's now easy to find in most grocery stores. My original post about smoked paprika explains more about the history and how it's made.
Often I use smoked paprika to replace ham or sausage in vegetarian soups, and to make quick yogurt sauces for roasted vegetables, both simple ways to jazz up everyday dishes. Here are four favorite recipes that wouldn't be the same without a pinch of pimentón:
Mushroom and asparagus paella, with olives and strips of roasted red pepper, makes an impressive vegetarian centerpiece to any dinner party. Build a Spanish-inspired meal around it, with tapas to start and a flan for dessert.
A bit of smoked paprika plays up the slightly charred flavor of roasted vegetables in this roasted eggplant spread with garlic, pepper and onions. I serve it with pita crackers, or use it as a filling for sandwiches.
It's not the smoked paprika that makes this blazing hot shrimp blaze; it's the jalapeño pepper, and you can tame the inferno by using less jalapeño, without the seeds. Pimentón adds depth to the heat, and though the recipe doesn't call for more than a pinch, this cocktail-worthy appetizer wouldn't be the same without it.
One of my all-time favorite chili recipes, turkey mole chili brings together the warm spice sisters, cumin and smoked paprika, with just a bit of chocolate in the mole sauce. Turkey chili can be bland, but you'll never say that about this great make-ahead-and-freeze dish.
Special thanks to my friend Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and Slow Cooker from Scratch (two blogs that inspire my cooking in so many ways), who suggested revisiting some pantry ingredients that might be languishing at the back of the spice rack, cupboard, or refrigerator door, and highlighting some of my favorite recipes here that use those ingredients. I loved the idea, and I hope you do, too.
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.