Romesco is my new favorite condiment. While I’ve tasted it before, I’ve never made it, and now I wonder why. Romesco hails from Tarragona, Spain, and is considered a staple in Catalan cuisine. As with many staples deeply rooted in a culture, there is often no single way to prepare it. A basic principle exists – the use of key ingredients such as almonds or hazelnuts, garlic, olive oil, bread and chiles. From there, variations abound depending on the cook or kitchen, including the addition of roasted tomatoes and red peppers, red wine and herbs. No matter the spin, romesco is versatile. It’s delicious as an accompaniment to fish and shellfish, chicken and vegetables. Swirl a spoonful into couscous, farro or rice. Or use it as a dip for cruditees. I like to roll a spoonful in curly kale leaves for a healthy, hands-on appetizer. No matter how you serve it, you will find this condiment addictively good; mellow and rich, thick and nutty, with the prickle of heat and spice. Be sure to make extra. Romesco keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
2 plum tomatoes, halved
1 red bell pepper, halved, stemmed and seeded
1 large dried ancho chile
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
1 slice loaf bread, 1/2-inch thick, cubed
1/4 cup blanched almonds
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Preheat oven broiler. Arrange tomatoes and red bell pepper cut side down in a baking pan. Broil until skin is charred and blackened. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, peel away skin. Coarsely chop tomatoes and peppers and transfer to the bowl of a food processor.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chile and sauté one minute. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl to cool. Add bread and almonds to the same skillet. Sauté until beginning to turn golden brown. Add sliced garlic and continue to cook until the bread and almonds are golden brown all over without letting the garlic burn. Transfer with any of the cooking oil to the bowl with the chile. Cool slightly.
Combine the cooled ingredients, the minced garlic, vinegar and salt with the roasted tomatoes and peppers in the bowl of the food processor. Process to combine. Add 1/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Taste for seasoning. Sauce should be slightly thick and nutty. If too thick, add a little more olive oil to achieve desired consistency. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to allow flavors to develop. Serve at room temperature