Monday, May 9, 2011

ingredient: PIMENTÓN

I'm one of those people who thinks everything sounds better in another language. So it was no surprise that as I was doing my souvenir shopping in Madrid a few years ago, I was immediately drawn to pimentón. I knew it was paprika. I knew we had it in the States. I worried that I was being a little silly, though clearly that didn't stop me from buying it anyway. But the truth is that I was totally justified in that purchase (maybe less so with the ashtray shaped like a bull) because Spanish paprika is different from other versions.

But let's start with the broadest term: Paprika is a spice made from grinding chili peppers, and as such its flavor can vary widely depending on the type of peppers used. In Spain, you'll find three main versions of pimentón: Pimentón Dulce or Sweet Paprika, Pimentón Agridulce or Medium Hot Paprika and Pimentón Picante or Hot Paprika. Then there is Pimentón de la Vera, which has a distinctly smoky flavor and a D.O.C protection to keep it that way. The smokey taste is a result of the way that freshly harvested peppers are dried slowly over an oak burning fire for several weeks. Pimentón de la Vera is so deliciously spicy, smokey and sweet that there is very little I wouldn't want to dust this over. The Spanish feel the same way: chorizos, paella, stews. If you've never had the crispy fried, spicy deliciousness that is patatas bravas, get yourself a plane ticket A.S.A.P

I believe that Pimentón even helps explain the Spanish Paradox. You know, similarly to the French version, it's the head-scratching situation in which the Spanish people fry everything in tons of oil yet stay slim and sexy. How do they do it? Well a main ingredient in paprika is capsicum. That spicy compound is extremely high in Vitamin C, antioxidents, and can help boost your metabolism. Hooray! I mean, olé!

Carrots with Pimentón

I do so much baking that when it comes time to make dinner, I rarely want to follow a recipe. I've spent all day measuring and pouring to a scientific exactness. I'm hungry and I want to throw some s*** in a pot.

Luckily I love vegetables enough that I could eat them plain, or just sauteed in olive oil. But my other staples are lemon juice (and zest!), parsley, and my spice rack. Green beans with lemon vinaigrette and toasted pine nuts? Yes please. A wilted, steaming pile of spinach, feta, lemon, dill, and a sprinkle of nutmeg? Don't mind if I do. Eggplant sauteed to a creamy/crispy texture with lemon, crushed red pepper, and balsamic reduced to a glaze? Hells yeah. Maybe I'll throw some yogurt on there too. It takes so little to make me happy if there are vegetables involved that I thought my veggie recipes weren't worth sharing.

But then I thought, you know what, this is pretty darn good. And it's fast. And its fresh. And if I could just get myself to write down how much of everything I was throwing in that pot then technically it'd be a recipe just like anything else. So here you go. These carrots are steamed until crisp-tender then tossed with a mixture of lemon juice, lemon zest (for extra citrus zing), bright green parsley, smooth sherry vinegar, rich fruity olive oil, and, of course, spicy smokey pimenton. These carrots have heat: if you're not into spicy then choose a mild Spanish paprika such as
Pimentón Dulce.

serves four

1 1lb baby carrots (that's usually one of those little bags)

1/2 cup chopped parsley
juice and zest of one large lemon

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera or other Spanish paprika
salt and pepper to taste


Place carrots in a steamer basket over boiling water. Steam until crisp tender (al dente as I like to call them) about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, zest, sherry vinegar, olive oil, pimenton, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut carrots into thirds and toss with vinaigrette. Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. You know my general feelings on carrots, but you've got me very, very intrigued by this smokey pimenton... Maybe we throw that on some meats?