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Paprika! Herb and Spice Series #2

May 9, 2009 | by Chef Herschel Arnow

Put a little spice into your life.

Paprika is ground from green and red sweet or broad peppers 4 to 5 inches long. The peppers are seeded and deprived of their stalks before grinding. The peppers are ground several times for the right texture. Paprika is sensitive to heat so be careful; when overheated, it turns brown. It should be bought in small quantities or put in the freezer to ensure it doesn't get infested with insects. Chili powder and cayenne powder come from longer peppers. These peppers are very hot, so a small pinch can make a big difference.

Paprika is used as a seasoning and a garnish. Its flavor can be from mild to pungent and hot. The color can be bright orange-red to deep blood red. Hungarian paprika is considered the best.

I once used a hefty amount of hot paprika instead of sweet paprika to season some fish. Fortunately, we discovered it before baking. We washed each piece of fish and re-seasoned it. The fish still had a real bite from the hot pepper, so be sure not to make the same mistake.

Here are some k.i.s.s. -- keep it simple sweetheart -- recipes that people will ask for because they taste so good!

Cajun-Style Blackened Fish Fillets (any fish)

This recipe is exciting. Everyone loves it and it sounds and tastes exciting.

1-teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh or dry thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
4 6-ounce fish fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil

4 teaspoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix first 7 ingredients in small bowl. Place fillets on baking sheet. Brush on both sides with 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle top of each with seasoning.

Heat heavy large skillet (preferably cast-iron) over high heat until very hot. Add remaining 1-tablespoon of oil; swirl to coat. Place fillets, seasoned side down, in skillet. Cook until very brown on bottom, one minute. Return fillets, browned side up, to baking sheet. Place in oven; bake until just opaque in center, about 8 minutes. Top each with 1-teaspoon of butter.

Makes 4 servings.

Gypsy Soup

If you want something great to start with, this soup is it. Guarantee they'll ask for the recipe.

3-4 tbs. Olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 cups chopped, peeled sweet potatoes or winter squash
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped, fresh or canned tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped sweet peppers
1 1/2cups cooked chickpeas
3 cups stock or water
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
dash of cinnamon
dash of cayenne
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. tamari

Cook the chickpeas (after checking) for a few hours before you use them in the soup. In a soup kettle filled with water/stock, throw in onions, garlic, celery, sweet potatoes and seasonings. Simmer, covered, fifteen minutes. Add remaining vegetables and chickpeas, simmer another 30 minutes or so – until all the vegetables are as tender as you like them.

Pollo Criollo Chicken

2 broiler friers cut up
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon pepper
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon paprika
Dash of cayenne

Brown chicken one part at a time. Remove.

Saute onion, pepper, and garlic with drippings. Add tomato paste. Mix in water, wine salt, cumin, pepper, oregano, and paprika. Bring to a boil. Pour into 12-cup casserole dish or baking pan. Arrange chicken and cover.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until chicken is tender and water is absorbed. Take off cover and bake 15 minutes for color.

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