Spanish Romesco Sauce with Grilled Accompaniments
PHOTO BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY
The beauty of this meal is that it’s a sauce made in advance, ready to go when everything else comes off the grill. And the accompaniments can be just about anything you like! I’ve included suggestions below, but my favorites are always thick slabs of grilled sourdough bread, charred baby leeks or spring onions, wedges of grilled fennel, whole fava beans in their pods, and some sort of grilled seafood, like squid or shrimp, with lots of lemons.
A trip to any mid-summer farmers market will yield you a bounty of beautiful small veggies, perfect for tossing in oil and salt and grilling, then dipping in this luscious, smoky sauce, a little bit messy and fun to eat outside by the fire. Supply abundant napkins, a crisp white wine and let everyone dig in with their hands.
Makes about 2–3 cups of sauce
1 jar roasted red peppers or piquillo peppers, or 4 large red peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
extra virgin olive oil
3⁄4 cup sliced organic almonds
2 big cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 slices country-style bread cut into cubes
2 teaspoons Spanish pimentòn de la vera (smoked paprika)
2–3 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
Drain the peppers and remove any seeds and membrane still attached. Set aside.
Heat 2–3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and add the almonds and the garlic. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sauté until fragrant and just slightly golden. Scrape the contents of the pan into the bowl of a food processor.
Return the pan to the heat and add another couple of tablespoons of oil. Add the bread cubes and fry until golden. Add them to the almonds and garlic in the processor.
Run the machine until the almonds and bread are finely minced. Add the red peppers, paprika, vinegar, honey, and thyme and run until well combined. With the motor running, drizzle in enough olive oil to make a smooth, thick sauce, about 2–3 more tablespoons. Taste for seasoning and add more vinegar, salt, and pepper if needed. Scrape into a serving dish and let the flavors marry for an hour or so. (This sauce gets even better overnight in the fridge, but make sure it's at room temperature before serving.)
Serve the sauce in the middle of a huge platter with a few or all of the following to dip, spread, or smear:
- thick slices of rustic country-style bread (sourdough works well, too), rubbed with olive oil and grilled
- spring onions, scallions, green garlic, baby leeks or even ramps, rubbed in olive oil and salt and pepper and charred on the grill
- wedges of fennel, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled
- squid or baby octopus, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled
- large, shell-on shrimp, rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled
- any other vegetable in season that you love, grilled: new potatoes (boiled first), zucchini or summer squash, baby thin-skinned eggplants, big fat mushroom caps, green beans, split heads of romaine lettuce
- peeled fat asparagus spears, rubbed in olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled
- tiny, garlicky marinated lamb chops or even a sliced grilled flank steak
Serve any leftover romesco dolloped onto fried eggs, smeared on a sandwich or inside a grilled cheese.