"What are you, smokin' paprika?"
Not sure if smoking paprika has any discernible effect (aside from red, irritated lungs), but smoked paprika can take a dish from that's-OK to tastebud-party with just a few sprinkles. Great way for vegetarians to get in some of that smoky quasi-bacony love, too.
I'm still looking for a local source for Hungarian smoked paprika, not that I'm sure I'd be able to tell it from the Spanish variety that I already have.
As I discovered yesterday, hot smoked paprika is also nice dusted over deviled eggs. Though the eggs, which I brought to Miss Angel's brunch, definitely also owed some of their pleasantly sweet kick to Drunken Angel Hot Sauce. (No, I'm not getting paid for mentioning that. I probably should be.)
Honestly, I wasn't crazy about the half-pureed, half-whole bean thing I did here. I think were I to make it again, I would puree the whole thing and then top it with some quickly fried sage leaves and strips of red bell peppers. Now that sounds good. Might have to sneak it into the schedule somewhere…
This recipe reflects what I shoulda oughtta have done, rather than exactly what I did.
Spanish Squash and Bean Soup
Serves eight, or four with seconds, or two with fourths, or…
A pinch (probably 1/2 tsp?) saffron
2 Tbsp hot water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium-to-large onion, diced
2 tsp to 1 Tbsp paprika, preferably smoked
1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
A goodly pinch of salt
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, and chopped into smallish pieces*
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups cooked white beans (from dried = best; one can, drained/rinsed, also = OK)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 sage leaves per serving, rolled and sliced into thin ribbons
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Combine saffron and water in a small bowl; set aside and let steep.
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes, until onion begins to soften. Add paprika, pepper flakes and salt; cook, stirring regularly, about 3 minutes more, until onion is quite tender (it will also be translucent, but you won't be able to tell, because it will be covered with paprika). Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute more.
Add squash and stir briefly to coat with oil/spices. Add broth and saffron with its water; bring just to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Add beans and simmer briefly to heat through.
Remove soup from the heat; cool slightly. Puree with an immersion blender, if you have one tough enough to handle the job (mine conked out, much to my annoyance). Otherwise, puree in batches in a food processor until quite smooth. Return to pot; return to low heat; allow to simmer away contentedly while you make the garnish.
Heat remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper strips and cook, stirring very much, until peppers are slightly softened and nice and hot. Remove peppers with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add sage leaves to hot oil and cook, stirring only occasionally, until leaves are well fried and beginning to brown around the edges. Remove to a separate paper towel to drain; they should crisp up nicely.
Stir lemon juice into soup. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with a festive garnish of sage and peppers atop each serving.
* A note about shopping for butternut squash: Look for squash with long, thick necks and fairly small bulbous ends. You'll get a lot more usable squash and a lot less seedy pulpy gunk.