Magazine article Sunset

Paprika Bland? Not If You're as Bold as the Hungarians

Magazine article Sunset

Paprika Bland? Not If You're as Bold as the Hungarians

Article excerpt

If you overlook paprika because you consider it a bland seasoning, think again. Used with a bold hand, it's more than a dusting of color to dress up plain foods.

Hungarian cuisine is rich with the color, flavor, and aroma of this distinctive seasoning. Hungarians have also made a specialty of producing paprika; they've been exporting this powder of dried, ripe red peppers of the capsicum family for at least four centuries.

Native to the Americas, the peppers came to western Europe with the Spanish and Portuguese, who later took them to India. From there, Ottoman Turks took the peppers through Persia to eastern Europe, including present-day Hungary.

Today, you'll find Old World and New World versions of the spice on supermarket shelves. Taste varies with the type of pepper used. All paprika peppers are fully ripened to develop intense flavors and color before they are dried and ground.

The peppers that are used to make Hungarian paprika look much like small red bell peppers. From them are derived sweet (also called mild) and mildly hot varieties of the spice. Westerners will find hot paprika gentle compared with many of the chilies we use regularly.

Domestic producers-mostly in California and New Mexico-make paprika from long, slender hybrids of the Anaheim chili. These peppers lack the heat of the regular Anaheim, and yield paprika comparable to Hungarian sweet.

These Hungarian-styie cool-weather dishes make good use of paprika. Try the sweet cooked onions, made orange-red by paprika, atop open-faced sandwiches. But also consider them as a warm relish for any cooked meat, poultry, or fish. Pork baby back ribs bake moist and tender on a bed of sauerkraut and fresh cabbage; paprika seasons the vegetables and the light, crisp crust of crumbs on the meat. Goulash soup is based on brisket; mushrooms and barley form the foundation of the other soup.

Sweet Paprika Onions

For delicious open-faced sandwiches, top slices of toasted bread (buttered or spread with sour cream) with cooked pork tenderloin, chicken breast, or cheese such as cream cheese, feta, gruyere, or jack. Then mound warm onion on top.

2 tablespoons each salad oil and butter or margarine

2 pounds onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons hot or sweet Hungarian paprika, or regular (domestic) paprika

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, add oil, butter, and onion. Stir occasionally until onion turns a deep gold, well tinged with brown, about 11/2 hours. Remove from heat and stir in paprika. Use hot, or cover and chill up to 3 days; stir over medium heat to warm before using. Makes about 1 cup.

Per tablespoon: 50 cal; 0.8 g protein; 3.4 g fat; 4.6 g carbo.; 16 mg sodium; 3.9 mg chol.

Baby Back Ribs Baked with Sauerkraut

1 large can (27 oz.) sauerkraut, drained

4 cups shredded red cabbage

About 3 tablespoons hot or sweet Hungarian paprika, or regular (domestic) paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 can (14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes

3 pounds pork baby back ribs

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

Pour sauerkraut into a colander and rinse with cool running water; let drain. In a roasting pan about 10 by 14 inches, mix together sauerkraut, cabbage, 1 tablespoon paprika, garlic, and tomatoes; spread in an even layer. Lay ribs on sauerkraut mixture, curved side up; sprinkle meat evenly with pepper and about 2 teaspoons paprika. …

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