Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Long overlooked, Spain is finally gaining world wide recognition for its amazing food. In my home I prepare a number of Spanish dishes including paella, pinchos mouros, batatas bravas and others. Among my favorites is salsa romesco from Tarragona, in Spain's northeast region of Catalonia.
As with many popular foods, the variations of romesco are limitless, but at its core are some standard ingredients. Among these are nuts, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes and wine vinegar. Often other ingredients are added to better match the romesco with the food that it is to be served with. Among these other ingredients are things like dried or smoked chillies or herbs like fennel or mint.
My introduction to romesco sauce came in the form of a condiment on a turkey sandwich that I ordered at a popular soup and sandwich chain. I loved romesco immediately. The complexities and interaction of the nuts, red peppers, tomatoes and red wine vinegar result in a delicious and versatile sauce that enhances the flavors of many other foods.
Traditionally, romesco was most often served with seafood. Today romesco sauce is used in a wide variety of other dishes. I've used it with great success not only as a condiment on sandwiches and grilled chicken and beef, but also as a dip, pasta sauce, baked potato topping and a host of other things. My children love Israeli couscous mixed with a dollop of romesco. sauce. I'm looking forward to trying it on hot dogs and hamburgers. Like I said: I love it!
For my version below I opted to use several different varieties of nuts for a more complex flavor. I also roasted the red peppers and tomatoes for a sauce with a richer flavor. This recipe also makes a good amount of romesco sauce. It is easier and economical to make it in larger quantities and then portion it out and freeze it so that you'll always have some on hand when you need/want it.
1 ancho chile
1 cup of almonds
1/3 cup of peanuts
1/3 cup of pistachios
1/3 cup cashews
6-8 cloves of garlic
4 plum tomatoes
2 large or 4 small red peppers
2-1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp paprika (Spanish sweet preferred)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
Soak the ancho chile in water for 4 hours or overnight. Carefully remove the stem and seeds and cut the ancho chile peppers up into small pieces. Set aside.
Set the oven to 450°F allow it time to heat. Place all the nuts, garlic and bread cubes into an ovenproof skillet. Place the skillet in the oven and allow the nuts, garlic to roast and the bread to toast. Stir occasionally. Be careful not to burn anything. Remove from oven, place in a bowl to cool and set aside.
Set your oven to broil. Place the tomatoes and red peppers in the skillet and place under the broiler. Turn the peppers as each side blackens. When mostly black remove from broiler and place in a paper bag to cool. Roast the tomatoes until the surfaces blister and soften. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Remove roasted pepper from bag and carefully remove blackened skins, stems and seeds. Cut the peppers into large pieces and set aside.
Take the tomatoes and remove the stems. Cut into large pieces and set aside.
Place the nuts, garlic and bread together in a food processor and chop until the pieces are uniform and well blended.
Add the tomatoes, red peppers, ancho chile, sea salt, paprika, red pepper flakes and red wine vinegar to the nut blend and chop and blend until almost paste-like.
While the food processor is running SLOWLY add a fine stream of olive oil to the mix until you achieve your desired consistency. For pastas you'll want a smoother sauce, for dips or for use on sandwiches you'll want something a little thicker.
Recipe: Romesco Sauce from Chop Onions, Boil Water - World Food at Home by Henry Krauzyk http://www.choponionsboilwater.com