I first tasted garlicky, crimson romesco sauce in Tarragona, Spain, the city where it originated, and it was a revelation.
Called a fisherman’s sauce or Spanish ketchup, it was slathered over freshly grilled fish. In Catalonia, romesco is stirred into seafood stews, spooned over fish and served in bowls as a condiment.
Since that first bite, I’ve been making it with some regularity and have found that romesco does wonders when served with grilled meat, chicken and vegetables. I’ve tossed it with pasta and used it as a sandwich spread and as a dip for vegetable crudités.
When paired with toasted country bread or grilled spring onions or asparagus spears, it can be an enjoyable course by itself. It’s also delicious spooned over roasted or steamed fingerling potatoes.
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Romesco’s base of roasted red pepper, tomato and garlic turns thick and rich once puréed with nuts and bread. Sherry vinegar and a sprinkle of smoked paprika provide sharpness and spice.
This Spanish sauce has many variations. Some cooks use hazelnuts while others choose almonds, or a combination of both; dry chile peppers are occasionally added.
Chef David Blonsky, of Apeiro Kitchen and Bar in Delray Beach and coming next month to midtown Miami, does add cauliflower to his sauce.
“Romesco pairs perfectly with the foods of the Spanish countryside generously topping grilled leeks, fennel or roasted cauliflower,” Blonsky said. “A scattering of Spanish marcona almonds completes the plate.”
Romesco keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week, and you may be tempted to eat right out of the container.
It can also be frozen up to three months: Make a batch and spoon 2 tablespoons sauce into each section of an ice cube tray. Freeze at least one hour; transfer cubes to a zipper plastic bag and freeze, or freeze in larger containers.
Cubes thaw in 15 minutes at room temperature; thaw larger quantities in the microwave or in the refrigerator overnight.
Carole Kotkin: email@example.com
This recipe is loosely based on one from the late Spanish cookbook author Penelope Casas. If you are stretched for time, use 1 cup drained roasted red bell peppers from a jar instead of roasting the red bell peppers.
1/4 cup blanched almonds
6 large garlic cloves
6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half, cored and seeded
1 (1/2-inch-thick) slice of country bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 red bell peppers
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chile powder
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons Sherry or red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Place almonds, garlic, bread and tomatoes on baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast almonds until fragrant and bread is crusty and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove almonds and bread and continue roasting garlic until soft and tomato is tender, about 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and remove skin from tomato and peel garlic.
While other ingredients are roasting in the oven, roast peppers under a broiler or open flame on a gas stove until the skins are blackened. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes. Remove charred skin, seeds and cores.
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Purée until smooth. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Place in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until cool. Store refrigerated up to one week.
Per serving: 150 calories (67 percent from fat), 11.8 g fat (1.5 g saturated, 8.1 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 2.9 g protein, 10.4 g carbohydrates, 2.8 g fiber, 125 mg sodium.
Yield: 2 cups.
White Cauliflower Romesco
Chef David Blonsky serves the sauce with grilled salmon and roasted cauliflower. Romesco is a Catalan sauce, so why not pair it with grapes from the area? A sparkling Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut Rosé ($13) combines beautifully with grilled salmon and can stand up to the acidity in the dense romesco.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
3 garlic cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
2 red bell peppers, roasted, skin and seeds removed
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
Heat oil in a small skillet and sauté shallots for two minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside. In a large saucepan, combine cream, nuts, cauliflower, roasted peppers, chile flakes, thyme, bay leaf and coriander. Bring to a simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Remove bay leaf.
In batches, place cauliflower mixture with sautéed shallots and garlic in the bowl of blender and puree until smooth. For a smoother texture, pass through a fine strainer. Whisk in honey and vinegar, and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Per serving: 601 calories (81percent from fat), 56 g fat (29 g saturated, 20 g monounsaturated), 164 mg cholesterol, 6.7 g protein, 22.7g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 73 mg sodium.
Yield: 4 servings.
Source: Chef David Blonsky.
1 head cauliflower
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red chile, seeded and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
10 leaves mint, torn
1 sprig of dill
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (toast nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until golden, about 3 minutes.)
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse cauliflower and cut into florets. Toss in a mixing bowl with oil, chilies, mint, dill, and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer in a nonstick baking dish or a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 10 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown and tender. Garnish with pine nuts.
Per serving: 153 calories (70 percent from fat), 13 g fat (1.4 g saturated, 6.6 g monounsaturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 3.9 g protein, 8.3 g carbohydrates, 3.2 g fiber, 535 mg sodium.
Yield: 4 servings.