CONDIMENTS ARE LIFE. They make everything better. The most boring of sandwiches, overly-poached chicken breast (blegh), and sad lonely salad are instantly improved with the addition of a beautiful splash of sauce.
Think of the vinegary vibrance of a vinaigrette, the herby blast that chimichurri delivers, or that holy blend of sriracha and mayonnaise that has become an absolute standby at every food truck from Portland to the other Portland. This brings us to ROMESCO.
Oh romesco you lovely thing you (*sigh*). This deeply flavored Spanish pepper paste helps add some color to our winter days. It comes together so quickly and easily. The most high maintenance part is burning a pepper to death, which is always morbidly fun. Then all that’s needed is a food processor and a new excuse to eat more toasty bread and cheese.
There’s endless options for romesco, here are seven:
- Romesco poached eggies!!!
- Use as base for pizza
- Mix into pasta salad, tuna salad, potato salad, any salad.
- Romesco grilled cheese
- Mixed into a pile of roasted veg (brussels are esp. good)
- As a condiment for cheese and charcuterie board
- 1 Red Pepper
- 1 dried chile pepper, such as Guajillo
- 1/2 cup roasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The usual choice is almonds, but pepitas add such a beautiful vegetal nuttiness. And they're so cheap!
- 2 cups crusty Ciabatta or Sourdough cubed
- 3 plum Tomatoes chopped
- 3 cloves Garlic
- 1-2 TB Balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 Anchovy optional
- fresh pepper, chile flakes, dried oregano to taste
Roast that pepper! If you have a favorite fancy way of doing so -- go for it. For those that have an electric oven the easiest method is to broil the heck out of it. With the oven rack placed at it's highest point, get the pepper on a sturdy cookie sheet. Set the timer and using tongs turn every three to five minutes or until it is blackened all over. Try not to set off the smoke detector...people might yell at you if you do.
Let the pepper cool 'til it's easy to handle. Proceed to scrape all the black charcoal bits off, then core and deseed. Chuck the pepper into a food processor.
Meanwhile rehydrate the chile pepper in a bowl of hot water. Let sit for 10 minutes til soft. Then drain and coarsely chop, if you're worried about the spice level scrape some of the seeds and ribs out. Add to the food processor.
In a small skillet over med-high heat, toast the seeds til they're fragrantly nutty. Shouldn't take more than five minutes. Add these to the food processor, along with the cubed bread, garlic, and plum tomatoes.
Pulse it all down to small bits. With the motor running on high, drizzle in the olive oil and let it run as it all forms into a paste, stopping to scrape the sides down if needed.
Add the salt, sugar, and anchovy (if using). Stir and taste, adding more seasoning if necessary, such as some pepper or dried herbs. Splash in the balsamic a tablespoon at a time. You don't want it to be assertive here, it's just to add a bright tang to the other flavors.
Pulse again until you have a uniform condiment. Taste and season one last time.
To really develop the flavors, slowly heat in a skillet and warm through, stirring consistently until the bottom begins to scrape up little browning bits. Not necessary, but a nice touch.
If not using straight away, store covered in the fridge for a week.
- If your tomatoes are sad and wimpy don't hesitate to add a squirt of tomato paste or a jarred sun-dried tomato to amp up the flavor.
- For romesco-poached eggs: Stir 1/3 cup romesco sauce and 1/4 cup tomato sauce into a small pan and heat over medium. Once it starts to bubble, crack in an egg and cook until white is set, aprox 3 minutes. Serve with crusty buttered bread.