he experts at Pereg, a leading producer of all-natural spices from around the world, offers more than 60 spices and spice blends sourced from the best places on earth. Every once in a while, their in-house spice expert, Joy, focuses on new spice introductions and seasonal spices from the Pereg pantry, explaining their unique properties and offering up creative ideas to help cooks and consumers make the most of them in recipes.
Joy’s latest passion: two seemingly common ingredients that actually exist in more variations than people realize. Namely, paprika and poppy seeds.
Paprika – The fourth most consumed spice in the world, paprika often appears in rubs, marinades, stews, chilies, and as a garnish. It’s a key an ingredient in numerous cuisines, from Mexican rices to classic Hungarian goulash to Italian sausages.
All paprika starts life as a type of red Caspicum annum, otherwise known as the bell pepper. Paprika can be smoked, sweet, hot, Hungarian, or Spanish style, depending on the variety of the peppers used and how they are processed. They range in color from bright red to brown, each with its own flavor profile, from mild to spicy. Along with new Spanish paprika, Pereg Natural Foods offers five other varieties: hot, hot oil, smoked, sweet, and sweet oil paprika types to choose from.
Spanish cuisine being a huge trend these days, you may have come across Spanish paprika on a recipe’s ingredient list. Also known as pimentón, this spice is becoming very popular in the United States. But what exactly is Spanish paprika and what makes it so special?
There are two types of Spanish paprika: smoked and non-smoked. Spanish paprika is commonly made with smoked peppers, which brings a deeper, smokier flavor to the table. That earthy essence comes from smoke-drying the peppers with oak wood for two weeks before they are ground.
Whether smoked or non-smoked, Spanish paprika is available in three varieties: sweet (dulce), semi-sweet (agridulce), and spicy (picante). The levels of heat and sweetness vary based on the blend of peppers used. Spanish paprika is generally less intense than Hungarian paprika, so it can be used in a multitude of ways
“Spanish paprika can be your best secret ingredient!” says Joy. “It has just enough spiciness to be interesting, and its array of flavors – from sweet to spicy – gives depth to a variety of recipes. We use it in baked eggs, potato casseroles, sprinkled on roasted tomatoes, and in beef stews. Sometimes we use just a hint — not so much that it defines a dish, but just enough to give it a smoky or sweet note in the background.
It’s a great spice for adding flavor and depth to vegetarian and vegan dishes, she says, and to dishes that are light on fat. “It’s a must for everyone’s spice cabinet.”
Paprika Glazed Chicken Recipe (Recipe Courtesy The Set Table, Amit Women/Albert Einstein School of Medicine)
One whole chicken cut into eights
1 egg, beaten
4 T lemon juice
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp Pereg Spanish Paprika
¼ tsp Pereg course grind black pepper
Dip chicken into egg, then cornflake crumbs. Place in pan in a single layer. Bake 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Pour glaze over chicken. Baste several times and bake 30 minutes more.
Poppy Seeds – Poppy seeds come in three different colors: white, blue, and black. There are no distinct differences between these types aside from their color, with the choice mainly depending on the color preference of the baker or the cook and its availability. Though they vary in color, they all come from the same European poppy plant.
Poppy seeds add a floral, earthy, and nutty flavor and pleasant color and crunch to all sorts of dishes, from savory and sweet to airy pastries.
According to Pereg’s resident spice expert, “Poppy seeds are often associated with bagels and breads, but they tend to be forgotten among the other seeds we use when cooking.” For cooking and baking, she recommends adding poppy seeds to muffins, cakes, scones, and sweet rolls, and brushing them on top of bagels, buns, crackers and eggs. Poppy seeds can be added to buttered egg noodles, fruit salad dressings, yogurt and yeast breads, even pancakes too.
Poppy seeds on their own are generally tasteless. When using them uncooked in foods such as salads, it is advisable to roast them lightly, as this enhances their flavor and aroma. “Heating poppy seeds releases their nutty, spicy-sweet flavor,” says Joy. “Roasting or baking them brings out their mild and sweet aroma, while deep frying them releases aromatic oils, making them crunchier.”
Ground poppy seeds are widely used in poppy seed cakes and pastries. “For grinding at home,” suggests Joy, “a coffee or spice grinder will do the trick, or you can first lightly roast the seeds and then use a mortar and pestle. It’s best to process them just before you use them. And if you end up with leftover ground poppy seeds, mix in a tablespoon of sugar and freeze them.”
You’ll even gain nutrients from these tiny seeds – they contain some niacin and folate and are also a great source of minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.
Poppy Seed Cake Recipe (Recipe Courtesy The Set Table, Amit Women/Albert Einstein School of Medicine
1-2 ounces of Pereg poppy seeds
¾ cup non-dairy creamer
¾ cup margarine (1.5 sticks at room temperature)
1 & ¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine the poppy seeds and non-dairy creamer. Let stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Combine the margarine, eggs, sugar and vanilla well. Add the poppy mixture. Beat at medium speed for one minute. Mix in the baking powder and flour. Grease and flour an 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5” pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1 and ¼ hours or until firm.
ABOUT PEREG NATURAL FOODS
Pereg was established in 1906, and is based in Clifton, NJ. They first became known for their vast variety of pure and natural spices and spice blends, more than 60 in all, from traditional favorites to exotics from around the culinary world.
Today Pereg produces an array of all-natural products that includes ancient grains and ancient grain blends, gluten free pasta, couscous, rice, gluten-free cereal and much more. Pereg Natural Foods products are available at select retailers throughout the US and Canada, and on their website, www.pereg-gourmet.com.
Pereg manufactures all its products from start to finish, controlling the quality from the sourcing until the product is packed and ready for the consumer. All Pereg products are kosher certified by both the Orthodox Union (OU) and CRC, are dairy and lactose-free as well as all natural, with no additives or preservatives. Many products are also certified gluten-free and non-GMO. Follow Pereg Natural Foods on Facebook.com/peregnatural, Twitter @pereggourmet and Instagram @peregnatural.