romesco sauce

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This is one of my favourite sauces. It’s so versatile and so tasty. In Spain, where the sauce is originally from, it’s served many ways – with patatas (fried potatoes) or grilled vegetables or grilled fish. I think it tastes best on the second or third day, after the flavours have had a chance to meld, so if you can, make it a day ahead. But it’s pretty darn good slightly chilled right after it’s made too – I would recommend saving a hunk of bread to wipe out the food processor for a well-earned chef’s taste test. I like to serve romesco sauce as an appetizer dip with fresh crusty bread, lightly drizzled with olive oil and a crack of sea salt, with mixed olives on the side. Or I will toss it with hot pasta, roasted tomatoes and fresh Parmesan for a simple dinner.

The origins of this recipe are from the LCBO Food & Drink magazine, but I have made a few adjustments from batch to batch to end up with this version that I like best.

SERVES 6 AS AN APPETIZER DIP
SERVES 4 AS A PASTA SAUCE

2 large sweet red peppers
8 large plum tomatoes (or about 20 of the smaller roma tomatoes)
5 large unpeeled garlic cloves
4-6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup toasted almonds, ground
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking tray with sides, or a glass dish, with parchment paper. Cut peppers into quarters. Remove seeds and white pith. Cut tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Place vegetables cut-side down onto baking tray. Add garlic cloves. Drizzle with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Toss garlic to coat with oil. Roast in oven for 30-40 minutes or until soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool down enough that you can handle vegetables to transfer to food processor.

While the pepper and tomatoes are roasting, prepare the breadcrumbs and almonds. You can use store-bought breadcrumbs, but you can also take a couple of slices of slightly stale crusty bread (I include the crust, even though many recipes suggest you cut it off) and pulse in the food processor to make your own breadcrumbs. They’ll taste better and don’t take too much work. To toast the almonds, place a pan on the stove top over medium low heat. Spread the almonds in the pan. Every couple of minutes, give the pan a shake to move the almonds around and flip them. You just want to give the almonds a light toast. Transfer almonds to the food processor and pulse to grind into almond crumbs (they should be similar in texture to the bread crumbs).

When vegetables are cooled, remove skins from peppers. You can also remove the tomato skins (they will slip right off), but I include the them. Peel the roasted garlic cloves. Transfer peppers, tomatoes and garlic to food processor. Add half the breadcrumbs, all of the almonds, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whirl until almost smooth. I like the sauce to have a bit of texture, so it’s okay if you have a bit of grit from the almonds.

Add more olive oil if you want the sauce thinner, or more breadcrumbs if you want it thicker. You are looking for a pudding-like texture. Taste. Adjust the salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar as needed. Store in the fridge in a covered container for up to 4 days. It freezes well, so you can freeze any leftovers. And don’t forget to wipe out the food processor for your well-earned sample!

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