Did you know that Whole Spice is a second-generation spice business? I am following in my mother’s footsteps. In 1949, her family immigrated from Yemen to Israel, where they settled in the southern Negev region. Our history with spices started about 35 years ago, when she and my father were running a dairy and vegetable farm there.
Both of my parents were often disappointed with the quality of the ingredients at the local spice market. One day, my dad had had enough. He came home and informed my mom that they were going to open their own spice shop. They proudly called their store Tavlinai Ha Bayeit — Hebrew for “Home Spices.”
But the quality issues continued. Mom simply could not find paprika peppers that met her standard of flavor and freshness, so she decided to start growing her own. She started with a one-acre plot and a small spice grinder and soon, as Home Spices paprika became popular with customers, expanded to more than 10 acres with an industrial grinder turning out large quantities. We were paprika farmers!
This was my childhood: Right after school, we kids all had our farm chores — weeding, planting, harvesting or grinding spices. Each of us had to finish those daily tasks before we could go out and play. And as we worked, we came to share our mother’s obsession with high-quality spices.
Always looking for ways to improve on her product, Mom selected the best seeds from her highest-performing, best-tasting peppers each year, to germinate for the next season’s crop. So each year, the quality of our paprika improved because of her passion for producing the best peppers she could possibly grow.
Along with paprika powder, my mother also developed a delicious pepper paste that she was extremely proud of. And her farming and cooking talents were matched by her skill as a retailer. I will always remember the caring and considerate way she treated her customers — unfailingly helpful and friendly, with integrity in both her products and her dealings with others. Our Napa shop is dedicated to this tradition.
Mom is enjoying retirement now, and leases the farmland to other vegetable growers. My brother Yoav has taken over the family shop and still continues making and selling spices the way our mother taught us. This recipe for paprika oil is a tribute to them both.
2 1/2 cups virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. paprika
In a glass jar, combine the olive oil and paprika.
Stir well and set aside for three days, stirring the mixture twice a day. (The paprika will sink to the bottom of the oil, so it is important to stir it.)
After three days, strain the mixture. What will be left is a clear, red olive oil with strong paprika flavor.
Store it in a sterilized glass bottle with an airtight cap.
Paprika oil can last up to two months if kept refrigerated. Use it to drizzle over eggs, pizza, dips, soups and bean dishes. Your friends will be envious of your culinary skills.