Secret Ingredient: Peppers With a Sense of Place

April 24, 2019 Updated: April 24, 2019

In this series, we ask chefs about the secret ingredients they love—and how you can use them at home. Here, two chefs share two regional pepper powders to add to your spice cabinet.

From a French Village

Amber Lancaster
Executive chef, Sable Kitchen & Bar
Chicago

Secret Ingredient: More often than not, I’m usually sneaking a little bit of piment d’Espelette, a red chili pepper powder from the Basque region of France, into my dishes. I earned my Le Grande Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu Paris and spent time after training under French chefs, so my cooking style is heavily influenced by my experience abroad.

Piment d’Espelette adds mild spice to a dish without overpowering it with heat. It also reminds me of a fond time in my life—learning and cooking with amazing French chefs.

How to Use It: I love using it to spice up mussels, in popcorn, or as a finishing spice. I use it in several dishes at Sable, such as to spice up my salmon made with smoked shallot butter, broccolini, and Romanesco. I’ve also been known to sneak it into a pastry here and there! Everyone should have this spice at home in their pantry.

The Color of Spanish Cuisine

Daniela Moreira
Executive chef, Timber Pizza Co. and Call Your Mother Deli
Washington, D.C.

Secret Ingredient: Pimentón, aka smoked paprika. It’s a traditional flavor in Spanish cuisine. It’s what makes chorizos red and what makes paella and papas bravas amazing!

Growing up, it was a staple in my mom’s pantry. She used it for most classic Argentine recipes, like empanadas and locro (hominy and squash stew). When I moved from Argentina to the States, I started using it in all my recipes. It adds a great smoky flavor to a dish, enhances the color, and can also add some spiciness, if I’m using the hot version.

How to Use It: My favorite ways to use it are in dressings and garnish sauces. Right now, we have a pizza in the menu at Timber that is made with a pesto base, bacon, wood-fired mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, and pimentón.

You can find smoked paprika in any store, but I strongly recommend buying pimentón de la Vera—that can be found online or in specialty food stores. Pimentón de la Vera is made specifically from chilies grown in the “La Vera” region in Spain. The chilies are harvested, dried, and smoked over fires made with local oak, giving the spice a characteristic smokiness that makes it stand out from regular paprikas.

pimenton de la vera
Pimentón de la Vera. (Shutterstock)

Salsita

My mom calls this sauce “salsita” (little sauce in Spanish) and we use it in stews like locro. This salsita can be added to any stews, meats, or vegetables to add some smokiness and a little heat!

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped scallion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pimentón de la Vera

Heat up olive oil and add green onions, salt, and pimentón. Turn off the heat and mix all ingredients together quickly until combined.

Recipe courtesy of Daniela Moreira

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