It was colder than I thought it would be in February. Spain is supposed to be the warm part of Europe.  Yeah, right…

Wait.  Hold the phone. It’s September in Colorado as I write this. Why are we talking about February?

Ah, well, because I just realized that when a student asked about Spanish sauces, that harvest season in Colorado is the perfect time for one of my favorites.  Wait for it…

OK, now back to February for a minute.  Even though it was the dead of winter, it was still warm enough to head to the Cava capital of Spain — Sant Sadurni D’Anoia  (try saying that 3 times really fast).  We piled into the car and made the short drive from Barcelona, through the green rolling hills.  Yes, in February it was still green…

We soon discovered that we had landed in the middle of a months-long celebration of bubbly wine, grilled veggies and meats, all accompanied by an incredible sauce — Romesco.

Even though we had stumbled on yet-another Spanish celebration of food and wine, we were seriously worried that we wouldn’t find a place to eat. But we did, thanks to a kind Spaniard who whispered in our ears. We jumped in the car and raced just outside town, where (luckily) the grill was still going, and the Cava was flowing.

We sat at long family-style tables and soon made lots of new friends.  The calçots (huge grilled spring onions) were plopped in front of us, along with ceramic bowls filled with a thick red sauce.  This was definitely NOT a fancy foam kinda place.

The locals gave us a quick lesson in how to strip the outer burned layers from the calçots and then dredge them in Romesco and throw back your head to drop the incredible combo into your waiting mouth. All that, without ending up covered in black and red. We were in heaven.

Soooo….  when Heather asked about Spanish sauces it occurred to me — what better sauce for this time of year than Romesco?  We don’t need calçots (although it sure would be nice) but we can substitute grilled onions, and all kinds of other great veggies from the grill.

Super delicious, and it doesn’t get much healthier. Combine all the wonderful ingredients that we can get fresh right now, and you have yourself a feast.

Here you go then. Grill up a bunch of veggies, and maybe some sausages or lamb, whip up this incredible sauce, and have at it!  And share it with somebody you care about, wouldja?

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Spanish Romesco Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1-inch thick slice of crusty bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped or slivered
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (with peel removed) — or use a total of 1/2 cup almonds
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes  OR 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes (reserve the juice and use it to adjust the consistency of the sauce to your taste)
  • 2 – 3 dried Nora peppers or mild dried peppers.  If not available, substitute 1 8-ounce jar of roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2-3 Tbsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Traditional Method

  1. Soak 2 dried Nora peppers (or other mild dried peppers) in water overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. While oven is preheating, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the bread crumb and nuts, until they just begin to turn brown. Watch closely, as nuts will brown quickly and become bitter.  Don’t let them get dark brown.
  4. Place the  tomatoes and garlic on a baking sheet and roast until soft (about 15 – 30 min).
  5. Back to the peppers — separate the hard skin from the soft meat (there won’t be a lot). Discard the outer skins, stems, and seeds.
  6. Place all ingredients into a food processor.  Purée until smooth.

Quick Method

If you’re short on time, try making the sauce with roasted red peppers from a jar,  and canned tomatoes. Then simply sauté the garlic, bread, and nuts in olive oil until soft and slightly brown. Careful not to burn the nuts.  Then blend all ingredients listed above, until smooth. Use reserved juices to adjust thickness to your liking.

Kept in a sealed container, Romesco sauce will last for a week or more in the fridge. It freezes well, too.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.  You’ll probably want to double or triple the recipe and if you don’t eat it all in one sitting, freeze it for later.

P.S. It’s also excellent with grilled sausages and lamb.