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Primo Spice

August 12th, 2003

pimenton.jpgI have always liked the Spanish sausage, chorizo, since my mother included it her cooking for my father, born in Spain and raised in a Spanish family in New York from the age of two. I never really wondered what gave chorizo (pronounced “cho-REE-tho”) its flavor until I visited Spain last April. I asked my relatives there, and they told me about Pimenton.

Pimenton, pictured at left, is a wonderful spice produced from peppers, especially those grown in the la Vera region of Spain. The peppers are harvested and then smoked over oakwood for 10-15 days before ground into spice. It comes in sweet (dulce), bittersweet (agridulce), and hot (picante) varieties. According to what I have read, it is indigenous to Central and/or Southern America, and was introduced to Spain by Columbus after his second voyage to the new world.

I brought back about half a kilo from my trip, and now I use the stuff on practically everything. It is not just pepper; it looks like paprika but tastes like a mild-to-medium pepper powder with a strong smoked flavor. Drop some onto a hot pan, and you get instant smokiness, a delicious aroma. I used it tonight, for example, on some yakitori, or grilled chicken on sticks; it blends in easily with the oils of the meat. It’s great either as a minor ingredient to add a little punch, or as a major flavoring. It has the ability to add to the flavor of the food without overwhelming. Several times I have added an amount that Hiromi warns me is way too much, but then she and I both agree that it still works beautifully for the flavor.

If you are able to lay your hands on some, do so, and try it out. Everyone I have served it to loves it. I hope you will too.

And if anyone knows where I can buy this in Tokyo, let me know!

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