When T. Rex and I were first married, I made deviled eggs and I sprinkled the top of them with paprika. I thought the rusty orange flecks against the pale lemon yolk were pretty. T. Rex devoured the eggs (you know, because he's a T. Rex) but then he said, "The next time you make these could you not put paprika on them? Every time I see paprika, I think it's just covering up rotten food.”
He had a point. Too many times when I've stood in front of a meat counter full of dubious-looking chicken breasts or salmon fillets slathered in oil and large amounts of paprika, I myself have wondered: “Just what are they hiding?”
So for a long time, I stopped using paprika as a garnish.
But I never stopped using it as a spice.
Paprika is actually not just one spice. While it is made from the dried fruits of bell or chili peppers, it’s complex and varied. It can be earthy or sweet or range in heat from mild to very hot. Spanish and Hungarian cuisines showcase paprika’s array of flavors and use it in stews, soups, sausages, potatoes, chicken dishes, greens, and eggs.
Personally, I like paprika for another reason: it is also available smoked. For vegetarians, a bit of smoked paprika added to collard greens or bean soup can stand in for the smoked ham hock or turkey leg that is often found in these dishes. I also use smoked paprika to make a spicy-sweet rub that I use with kale, potatoes, chicken, or tofu.
Give paprika a try—I mean, really give it a try. Taste several varieties. Are there subtle differences or powerful ones? Play around!
And if you still want to use paprika as a garnish, go ahead…I promise I won’t tell T. Rex!
Stay tuned for a recipe featuring paprika!