I grew up not knowing why people used paprika. I’d occasionally pull out the large, yellow TexJoy container with the mysterious red powder inside. Mysterious because when I tried to smell it, there was no real aroma that I could discern. Likewise, a finger full to my tongue didn’t yield a flavor that I could pinpoint. It just…didn’t taste like much. But when I discovered Hungarian and Spanish Paprika that was smoked, I knew I’d found a new culinary secret.
Or at least new to me. Paprika is one of those spices that’s so prevalent in so many countries, it’s downright confusing these days. Paprika refers to what I’d call a collection of spices that all revolve around one main component- smoked or roasted peppers of the Capsicum Annuum variety. Of course, this means it ranges anywhere between bell peppers, piquant peppers, and chile peppers. Taking the general variety of peppers this encompasses, and how many countries have embraced this spice, it’s no wonder we can’t put it into a single profile.
Paprika at a Budapest market (source)
After discovering the wonders of Smoked Paprika, I resolved to use that amazing flavor anywhere I could find an excuse for it! If you can find a good Spanish Paprika that comes in both sweet and hot varieties, you’ve got some great flavor just waiting to be unleashed. The combination of the two rounds out dishes perfectly.
Since we’ve been sitting in the warmer days here in Texas, it’s a good time to look for simpler meals that can be eaten anytime, and cooler dishes that don’t get your body temperature closer to that of a baking sidewalk. That’s why I decided to prepare my simplest Paprika Chicken dish with a refreshing Orzo Pasta Salad. You can substitute farro if you’d like something a little more rustic.
First, get your meat marinating!
Pre-heat oven to 375, or get your charcoal going, if using a grill.
Mix above ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and whisk thoroughly.
Toss the shallots in the vinaigrette and let marinate for about 30 minutes.
Remove rosemary from the boiling water once soft, and stir in pasta. Drain and let cool.
Meanwhile, toss the rest of the vegetables except for spinach into the vinaigrette.
Serve with the chicken and enjoy a light meal that’s full of flavor!