A Spicy Affair
I have a confession to make: while I was in culinary school I had a spicy little fling with a Spaniard I met there. In the heady, early days of the romance, my love interest seemed to make everything more interesting, more intense. My fellow students teased me because we were rarely apart. But I finally had to come to terms with how much time we spent together when, one day, my husband came home from work early and noticed that the kitchen was filled with a subtle yet telltale smoky aroma. He’d caught me, literally red-handed… with smoked paprika.
In that moment, I think I had been using the spice in three different recipes simultaneously and I had to admit that my devotion might have gone too far.
I’m not alone in my near-obsession with this spice, however. Emma Christensen, in her post about this spice for The Kitchn, wrote, “Honestly, we haven’t come across a savory recipe yet that we couldn’t imagine sprinkling with a little smoked paprika!” I heartily concur, Emma!
Not familiar with smoked paprika, well, Ms. Christensen goes on to share, “Smoked paprika is a Spanish cousin to the more widely used sweet Hungarian paprika. It’s made from pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire, then ground into a fine powder.
You’ll sometimes see it called pimenton, smoked pimenton, sweet paprika, Spanish paprika, or any variation of those names, but you can always recognize this spice by its deep red color and powerful smoky aroma. Unless the packaging indicates otherwise, it’s not typically a hot spice – in actuality, the spice itself is quite mild and sweet.”
Since that time I have dialed back the intensity of that affair but I still turn to smoked paprika when something I’m making needs warmth and complexity.
Raw salsas are one of those recipes that benefit from a little smoke and depth of flavor that won’t come from cooking because, well, RAW. And so I created the recipe below for Smoky Fermented Salsa that allows me to combine two obsessions together in one recipe: smoked paprika and fermentation. Clever, aren’t I?
You’ll find the usual suspects in this salsa recipe: tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cilantro, but you’ll also find, in addition to the smoked paprika, one other not-so-typical ingredient: sauerkraut juice.
See the pretty hot pink liquid in the picture above? Well, that is brine I siphoned off a jar of Hot Pink Jalapeño Kraut. I chose this kraut from the many varieties inhabiting my fridge because I knew its flavors would compliment those of the salsa. Using the sauerkraut juice is optional but it will inoculate your salsa with a bit of the Lacto bacillus bacteria you are trying to get growing in the salsa in order to have a true fermented salsa.
This recipe is one of the first things I make when the tomatoes begin appearing in my garden. The varieties shown above are Berkeley Tie Dye and Lime Green Salad tomatoes. The former is on the sweet side, the latter has a bit more acidity, and they balance each other nicely in the finished product. You can also seed the tomatoes if you’d like. I did not and my salsa was a bit on the watery side but I just use a slotted spoon for serving to drain off some of the liquid (Save that brine, though, as it would be a delightful addition to a Bloody Mary!)
Because my kitchen has been on the warmer side and because I kick started the fermentation process with some kraut juice, my salsa was ready in three days. Yours may take longer if your kitchen is cooler and/or you don’t use the kraut juice.
This past weekend, my husband and I enjoyed a Sunday breakfast of scrambled eggs with a creamy goat cheese crumbles, all smothered in Smoky Fermented Salsa. You’re going to want to get on that, too, as soon as your salsa is done. So get on it already!
Do you have a dish you love to use smoked paprika in?
Smoky Fermented Salsa
Yield: 1 quart
- 2 – 2.5 lbs. tomatoes, cored & diced
- 3 – 4 T red onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded & minced
- 1/4 c cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 T fresh lime juice
- 1/2 t smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 t sea salt
- 1 T sauerkraut juice (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well.
- Transfer ingredients to a wide-mouth, 1-quart Mason jar.
- Use a screw band to hold your Kraut Source in place, fill the moat, and add the airlock cap.
- Allow salsa to ferment for 3 – 4 days in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
- When done, store in the fridge. Eat within 5 – 7 days.