Sauces, Dressings & Dips

    Romesco Sauce

    romesco_small

    Makes about 3 cups

    About 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
    1 pound of Roma tomatoes (4 medium-sized)
    1 red sweet bell pepper
    2 (1-inch thick) slices of an Italian-style bread (measuring approximately 6 x 3-inches in diameter), such as ciabatta or Pugliese

    1 cup roasted and skinned hazelnuts
    3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
    1 to 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
    1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
    21/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    Hot water, if needed

    This classic Spanish sauce is a melange of roasted tomatoes and peppers, olive oil, roasted hazelnuts and fried bread. It compliments many foods, including grilled shellfish and halibut, lamb, pasta, and even a simple offering of toasted bread (as a dipping sauce). It keeps for at least two weeks in the refrigerator.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    Pool one tablespoon of olive oil on a baking sheet and place it in the oven while it is preheating. Halve the tomatoes lengthwise; cut out the core from each half. When the oven is hot, remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the tomato halves in the oil, cut-side up. Coat the surface of each tomato half with a bit more oil, which will help with browning. Roast for about 15 minutes, then turn the tomatoes over, cut-side down and continue roasting until the tomato skins begin to darken, crack, and pull away from the flesh. Remove from the oven and set aside until they’re cool enough to handle.

    Pierce the pepper in several places with a sharp knife to avoid bursting, then place it on the baking sheet. Place the pepper under a broiler and broil, turning several times, until it has blackened over most of its surface. Alternatively, you could blacken the pepper over a gas flame on your stove top, or in a grill.

    Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (you can use a non-stick skillet, but it won’t impart quite as much toasty flavor to the bread). Fry the bread until golden brown and crisp on both sides. Remove from skillet and let cool.

    Pluck the skins from the cooled tomatoes, reserving the juices. Place the flesh and juice in the food processor. Peel, core and seed the pepper, reserving the juice. Place the flesh and juice in the food processor. Add the bread, roasted hazelnuts, garlic, red pepper flakes, paprika, ground chipotle chile pepper, salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth (it will have a somewhat grainy appearance because of the nuts). With the machine running, add the vinegar. Let the motor run for a moment, then stop it and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the motor back on and add the 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a slow, steady, very thin stream. The sauce will thicken slightly and hold together with a rich, rust orange/red color. If the sauce seems too thick (it should have a soft, pesto-like consistency), then with the machine running, drizzle in some hot water. Taste and make sure the sauce has plenty of piquancy and enough salt. If desired, with the machine running, add additional vinegar and salt. Romesco sauce can be prepared and refrigerated for at least a week. Bring to room temperature before using.