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Smoky Romesco Sauce

Posted Jan 29 2013 12:05pm

Despite my best efforts to keep the flu out of the house with gingery-everything, I failed. The virus marched right in on Saturday and hasn’t taken the hint to leave just yet. A terrible guest, I tell you. Lingering on into unwanted late nights, bed rest, fever/chills, tea, crackers, and sips of miso soup. If you have the slightest hint of the flu knocking, go deep with warm ginger and garlic infused soups and hang a strand of garlic on the front door (it can’t hurt, right?). If all else goes awry, arm yourselves with movies, tea, and crackers, then surrender.

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Early last week when the house was still quiet and our appetites strong, I spied the bag of peppers given to me by the Whole Foods Market Hadley Store (Thanks, Jaimee!). The peppers came from Mexico and are part of their Whole Trade produce line that guarantees fair prices are paid for products, better wages and working conditions, and sound environmental practices. Also, these Whole Trade bell peppers generate a 1% donation to the Whole Planet Foundation that supports community development projects in Culican, Mexico, scholarships, housing and health clinics.

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Plus they taste good. Plain, roasted, or transformed into smoky romesco sauce (a nutty red pepper sauce that originated in Tarragona, Spain). I made a few tweaks to Kim O’Donnel’s recipe from The Meatlover’s Meatless Cookbook (you can read the original recipe here). The sauce became a fast favorite as it found its place on the plate morning through night and by the spoonful in between. Served as a sandwich spread, dip with roasted vegetables (a medley of sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes does the trick), pasta sauce, or an egg topper. Oh yeah, there were a few corn tortilla swipes too. This stuff is rocket fuel to the senses: sweet, spicy, sultry. Divine alliteration with the letter ‘s’. Sunny too. Stop me now, people, stop me now…

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Romesco sauce is a new staple around here. I also want to try Saveur’s recipe with grilled spring onions that Jess wrote about last spring. A word of advice—don’t wait that long to make this or any version of romesco. Seriously. You can thank me later.

p.s. One of my favorite podcasts, Alphabet Soup (“a podcast about food and words” run by Autumn and Kelly ) is back!  Give it a listen—smart honest literary food goodness.

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Smoky Romesco Sauce
adapted from The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook by Kim O’Donnel

3 red or orange bell peppers
3 cups (about 1/2 pound) cubed country-style bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 dried ancho chile peppers, soaked for 1 hour, drained, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 dried chile de arbol pepper, seeded and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup hazelnuts
4 canned whole plum tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
plus extra olive oil for drizzling
garnish with freshly chopped parsley leaves

To roast the bell peppers, preheat the oven to 400F. Place the peppers on a baking sheet, whole, with stems attached.

Roast for 40 minutes.

Transfer the peppers to a sealed container or a paper bag so the pepper can sweat and loosen its skin. After 15 minutes, remove the stem and seeds by pulling them out of the pepper. With your hands, remove the skins. Don’t rinse the peppers, this will take away their roasted flavors.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the cubed bread and lightly toast until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow the bread to cool. Place all the peppers in the bowl of a food processor or in the container of a high-speed blender, along with the garlic, nuts, and the pan toasted bread cubes. Process the mixture until smooth.

Add the tomatoes, then the remaining oil and vinegar. The mixture should come together quickly. Add the salt and smoked paprika. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. Adjust the seasoning to taste. To serve the romesco sauce as a dip with roasted vegetables or with toast, drizzle a little olive oil on top and garnish with parsley. This sauce keeps for about 5 days in the refrigerator.

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