Food Buzz: Ancient Sauce is New Again

By Chef Judi Gallagher –

A good Romesco sauce is nothing new to professional chefs; we all learned to make it and it’s a staple in our repertoire. The reason is that this sauce is easy to make, looks pretty on a plate and is highly versatile. Toss it with a little pasta for lunch or a side dish. Use it with shellfish, meats, poultry, or fish. It works every time to add zing and color to your food. You can even use Romesco (thickened version) as a dipping sauce for roasted vegetables.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that Romesco sauce is turning up on restaurant menus again all across America. Its commercial popularity ebbs and flows with culinary trends. But I think Romesco is a sauce that home cooks should master and use in their repertory because it has few ingredients and is simple to prepare. Yet, it produces a genuine wow factor for food. Vegetarians should learn to makes Romesco (and then add your own variations) because this this sauce really flavors up all kinds of vegetables.

Romesco is a sauce that originated in the city of Tarragona in the Catalonia region of Spain. It dates back to Roman times. Traditionally, it is made from blanched almonds and hazelnuts (you can substitute pine nuts), roasted garlic, olive oil and sweet red pepper. Personally, I use the jarred red peppers, drained well, along with fresh roasted red tomatoes and sherry wine vinegar.

Although Romesco is a wonderful sauce to use on a cheese ravioli, I also use it as a base for grilled fish, spicy grilled shrimp, grilled leg of lamb and grilled Hallumi cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese. It’s great with fresh tuna too.

Make your Romesco at least a few hours before serving so that the complex flavors can meld and deepen.  Because of the oils in the nuts, the sauce will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator. You’ll never regret making this sauce.

Romesco Sauce:
12 blanched almonds
12 hazelnuts
1 head garlic
1 slice stale bread
2 ripe medium tomatoes
2 large roasted red peppers, well drained if using jarred
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Approximately ¼ cup sherry vinegar

Roast garlic by cutting off the head a brushing with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet in preheated 350 degree oven and roast for 20 minutes or until garlic inside is soft.

Place almonds and hazelnuts into food processor and grind until finely ground.

Pour 1-2 tablespoons oil in a medium pan and quickly fry bread until both sides are browned. Remove from pan and cool.

Cut tomatoes into quarters. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan and sauté tomatoes for about 4-5 minutes, (or roast tomatoes for a sweeter taste).

Once bread is cool tear into 6 pieces and add to the nuts in the food processor. Add sautéed tomatoes and blend in processor. Squeeze roasted garlic from the skin and add to processor. Add roasted peppers and blend until you create a thick paste. Drizzle in sherry vinegar and extra virgin olive oil according to the desire thickness. My recommendation is keep it on the thick side. So delicious!

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