The autumn sun is streaming full through my kitchen windows – bands of gold shifting across the floor. My dog’s face is warm and soft in the November light.
If only it would stay. This way.
This is a happy mood autumn dish that pairs well with a dark ale.
And, this. (Who’s old enough to remember trooper?)
Paprika comes in different flavours and varieties. It is essentially derived from grinding the pods of peppers – including sweet bell peppers and chili peppers.
Depending on the variety of pepper and how it is processed, the colour can range from bright red to brown and the flavour from mild to spicy. The sweet variety is often associated with Hungary and the hotter, smoked variety, with Spain although both regions offer a range of sweetness and pungency.
Paprika sold in grocery stores tends to be neither sweet nor hot (some might say without flavour). It’s a shame that generic paprika is what most of us are accustomed to because the higher quality varieties are imbued with flavour and provide a completely different experience.
Regardless of what variety you use for this recipe, the surrounding ingredients will carry the flavour.
Warm Mushroom and Toasted Paprika Bean Salad
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups white kidney beans, well rinsed if using canned
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, brushed and sliced
2 cups baby spinach or other mixed greens
1 heaping Tbsp quality paprika (preferably Hungarian Sweet but ordinary paprika will work fine)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
sprinkle cinnamon powder
Handful sweet pepper slices for garnish
Note: mushrooms soak up water like a sponge. If you soak mushrooms in water to wash them, it’s a little bit like trying to sauté a fully drenched sponge. You will end up with a lot of water and not a very nice sear. It’s a long, messy, frustrating experience. Instead, use a potato/vegetable brush to gently brush dirt and debris off mushrooms. You could also use a damp cloth if preferred but try to resist soaking or running them under water.
Warm a large skillet over low heat with some olive oil. Add onions to skillet, stirring until they start to soften. Add beans to skillet, mixing gently, taking care not to mash the beans. Once beans have begun to warm, add paprika, stirring to combine with beans and onion. Be sure to keep heat low otherwise the paprika will blacken and burn. Add remaining spices to mixture, stirring to combine. Allow flavours to permeate on lowest heat for a few minutes. Remove onion and bean mixture from skillet and set aside.
Using the same skillet that was used for onions and beans, add a little more olive oil and sauté sliced shiitake mushrooms over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. The mushrooms will take on the residual flavour and colour of the spices.
To serve, place about a half cup of spinach on 4 separate serving plates. Add a half cup of onion and bean mixture over top of spinach, followed by a generous spoonful of shiitake mushrooms. Garnish with a few slices of sweet bell pepper (I found miniatures).