Kitchen to Kitchen - Romesco, King of the Spanish sauces, have you met?

Romesco sauce holds a special summer allure.

Romesco sauce holds a special summer allure.

By Sidonie Maroon, A Blue Dot Kitchen

When I first came across Romesco sauce, it changed my life. It was a revelation using nuts in a savory sauce. Oh, and the flavors... I was hooked. Last Summer, as my cooking apprentice Hannah and I packed up my kitchen to move across town, we listened to episode 637 of Splendid Table https://www.splendidtable.org/episode/637 , with Omar Allibhoy, talking about Spanish sauces. I remembered making Romesco and thought I’d love to teach a Spanish salsa (sauce) class.

You can sign up and come learn to make Spanish Sauces with me on July 6 and 13. https://www.foodcoop.coop/classes/spanish Romesco, one of the cuisine’s classics, is on the menu.

Romesco holds special Summer allure, not only is it delicious, but it’s easy to make with endless possibilities. The ruddy colored sauce is named after the romesco chili which gives it a deep fruity, almost chocolaty flavor. It’s a hard chili to find in the States, but lucky for us Ancho chilies are a fine substitute.

Making Romesco is time traveling down odd byways of old connections. I love this part of diving deep into culinary history. It’s a thrill, like capture and release, to taste a Mexican mole, with its almonds, pumpkin and sesame seeds and understand that the culinary technique of using nuts and seeds for sauces came from Spain through the food heritage of Morocco.  

If we look at romasco’s ingredient list and wander exotic places of culinary imagination; the use of nuts, usually almonds or hazelnuts, but sometimes walnuts is a Moorish influence from before 1492. While chilies and tomatoes arrived in Spain after 1492 with the Columbian exchange.

There isn’t one authentic, stand still, recipe for romesco sauce, but it always includes nuts, chilies, garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, salt and olive oil.

Romesco says Summer, because it goes on everything that comes off the grill. It’s a dipping sauce for crudites, you can thin it for salad dressing, or add it to beans or stews. It adds a savory depth, and it’s creamy, with a touch of heat.

Try it with roast potatoes or fried eggs. Stir it into a ratatouille of roasted veggies, layer it on lamb, serve it with red snapper, or how about fold it into a noodle dish. Excellent on a grilled sandwich. Let it replace the butter on corn on the cob. As versatile as mayonnaise, but with more punch, and keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.

Speaking of mayonnaise, did you know the sauce of sauces is Spanish! Mayon, is a Spanish place name, and naise, is the French word for sauce.

Just because I mentioned mayonnaise, I have to share my garlic infused mayonnaise recipe, which isn’t aioli, another famous Spanish sauce. Try it right away, it’s so easy to make and worth the effort!


Walnut Hazelnut Romesco Sauce

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Makes 1 ½ cups

Quick

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1 dried ancho chili, stem removed, deseeded and torn into pieces

4 cloves garlic, smashed (remove any green inner sprouts) 

½ cup boiling water

¼ cup tomato paste (I used Bionaturae brand) 

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon raw unfiltered red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sweet paprika, Spanish or Hungarian

½ teaspoon red chili powder or red chili flakes

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons toasted hazelnut oil

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Pour boiling water over the ancho chili pieces and smashed garlic. Let them sit until softened, about 15 minutes. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, toast the walnuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 3-5 minutes at a medium heat. Add the nuts, ancho chili, garlic and soaking water to a high-powered blender. Add the vinegar, salt, chili powder to the blender. With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive and hazelnut oils. Process until the sauce is smooth. With a rubber spatula, remove the sauce to serve or store. The sauce’s flavors will develop as it sits. Serve it right away or keep it refrigerated to use as needed.

Groceries to Give a Go

Fresh Chilies

Walnuts

Almonds

Dried Ancho chilies

Toasted Hazelnut oil

Avocado oil

Maldon flaked sea salt

Tomato Paste

Green olives

Apple cider vinegar


Garlic Infused Mayonnaise

Makes ½ cup

20 minutes

Garlic infused avocado oil, with golden bits of chewy garlic make this a tasty sauce for potatoes or fish.

Ingredients

6 cloves garlic, take out any green center sprouts, chopped (wait 15 minutes before using) 

½ cup avocado oil

½ teaspoon Maldon flaked sea salt

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest 

2 egg yolks, farm fresh if possible

 

Directions

Using a small saute pan, infuse the oil with garlic by bringing it up to medium low. The garlic should shimmer in the pan turning golden, but never burning. As soon as it shimmers, turn the heat down to low and infuse for 15 minutes. 

Using a food processor, add sea salt, mustard, lemon juice, zest and egg yolks. Briefly pulse to bring the ingredients together.  With the machine running, slowly, in a thin stream pour in the avocado oil with the garlic until the sauce thickens. It should use the complete ½ cup of oil. Keep refrigerated. The sauce will keep for one week.


Last but not least, here’s a Spanish salsa with fried walnuts!

Green olive, fennel greens and Valencia orange salsa with fried walnuts 

1 ½ cups

Quick and so delicious.

Perfect for a summer meal. Fennel greens grow wild here. If they’re not available you could substitute parsley and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seed. 

Salsa Ingredients

1 cup green pitted garlic stuffed olives, roughly chopped (Spanish gordels would be perfect)

2 small new onion bulbs, cut in half and thinly sliced, or use 1 bunch of green onion whites

2 Valencia oranges  

1 cup wild fennel greens, chopped

Juice of one fresh lime

⅛ teaspoon of cayenne pepper or Aleppo pepper 

Fried Walnut Ingredients

1 cup walnuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon smoked paprika

Sprinkle of Maldon flaked sea salt

Directions

For oranges

Cut off the tops and bottoms. Set the oranges on their bottoms, and with a knife, following the curve of the orange, cut off the peel and pith. Remove the sections from the membranes with your fingers. No need to keep them whole because they’ll chopped. 

For Salsa

Add all the salsa ingredients to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the salsa in a serving bowl. You can make the salsa ahead and add the warm fried walnuts right before eating.

For Fried Walnuts

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet on medium heat.  When hot, add the olive oil. Add the walnuts and stir, coating with oil, sprinkle on the smoked paprika and salt. Fry until fragrant about 1 ½ minutes. While still warm, chop and add to the salsa. Serve immediately. 


Oh, just one more. Please try this salad dressing! You use the garlic mayo in the recipe. 

Tomato Orange Vinaigrette

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Makes 3/4 cup

Quick

Wonderful dressing for green leafy salads or try with cucumbers.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh Valencia orange juice + 1 teaspoon zest

1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar

3 anchovies packed in olive oil, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon mustard

1 tablespoon garlic mayo (recipe in packet)

1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dark whole cane sugar

1/2 cup olive oil, or avocado oil

Directions

In a food processor, add all the ingredients and process until smooth and creamy