SPANISH MEDITERRANEAN DIET - FOODS, RECIPES & BENEFITS
A way of eating based on traditional foods
Known as Pimentón de la Vera in its native Spain, smoked paprika is a favorite for its appealing reddish-orange color and singular flavor that features sweet undertones. It’s a premiere spice that enjoys protection under the certification "Denominación de Origen" to ensure the highest quality. Only smoked paprika produced in the La Vera valley has earned the right to carry that designation.
Originally cultivated by Yuste Monastery monks, the spice is hand-picked and dried over an oak fire for 15 days to create Pimentón de la Vera. Spanish smoked paprika is still harvested as it was in the 16th century by the monks who pioneered the method.
It’s a pain-staking process that requires the peppers to be rotated every 24 hours to ensure that each pepper is dried evenly. When the peppers have dried sufficiently, their volume is reduced by approximately 75 percent. The stem and seeds are removed before being ground in a traditional stone mill to preserve the flavor and aroma. When the seeds are removed, the spice retains more of its sweet flavor.
Spanish paprika is available in varieties ranging from mild to hot:
However, due to its traditional processing techniques, Pimentón de la Vera has a very distinct smoky aroma and flavor that makes it especially popular for pairing with meats, adding interest to vegetable dishes, and for flavoring soups and stews. In the Galicia and Extremadura regions of Spain, it’s a favorite for elevating dishes in which octopus ("pulpo a feira") and breadcrumbs ("migas") are present.
It’s also used for coloring rice dishes. It’s an excellent garnish when sprinkled on soups, eggs, meat and fowl. Spanish paprika occupies a prominent place in traditional Spanish cuisine ranging from appetizers served with drinks to main course meat dishes at elegant restaurants.
Spanish Paprika is a particularly powerful spice and should be used with care to ensure dishes are flavorful, but not overpoweringly spicy. Heating is required to coax out the full flavor impact, but it should only be added to a recipe during low heat as it can scorch and burn easily.
Many people mistakenly associate paprika with Hungary and similar regions. The spice’s true journey to Spain is a fascinating story. Franciscan Monks sent as emissaries to spread the word of Christianity to the New World found a cornucopia of new plants that they brought back to Spain in the form of seeds. The paprika plants grown today are the descendants of those first plants.
Natural breeding and selection programs resulted in a variety of cultivars from the original plants. The traditional harvesting and curing methods of Pimentón de la Vera by paprika artisans has been used for generations and is responsible for the specialized flavor enjoyed today.
Pimentón de la Vera is an essential ingredient in Spanish cuisine and Mediterranean dishes of all types, but its appeal reaches around the globe. It’s highly prized by home cooks and by Michelin rated chefs and restaurants to add color, flavor and zest to any gastronomical delight.