Salsa romesco

Romesco, Catalan in origin, is a pounded sauce that features two key ingredients: tomatoes and romesco peppers. In Catalunya, festivals are held to celebrate this dish, and families treasure their recipes as closely guarded secrets. Be sure to use the ripest, most flavorful tomatoes.

Makes 1 large bowl

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

1 dried nyora (ñora) chile pepper or, for variety, any other hot dried pepper such as cascabel, guajillo, or pimento

20 blanched almonds

2 x 1in (2.5cm) slices of day-old baguette

1 large beefsteak tomato, about 10oz (280g), peeled, quartered, and seeded

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/4 cup dry red wine

4 tsp red wine vinegar

V2 cup good-quality olive oil sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 Seed the dried pepper, and use your hands to tear the flesh into small pieces. Put in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of boiling water, and let stand for about 15 minutes. Drain off the soaking water, reserving the chile.

3 Meanwhile, put the tomato quarters, bread, garlic, and almonds in a roasting pan, sprinkle with a little olive oil, and bake in the oven. Keep an eye on things because the various ingredients take different amounts of time to bake. Allow 5-8 minutes for the almonds, 10 minutes or so for the bread, and about 15 minutes for the tomatoes and garlic.

4 Using a mortar and pestle, pound together the peppers and roasted tomatoes, bread, garlic, and almonds until you have a thick paste. Alternatively, puree in a food processor. Add the red wine and the vinegar, then very gradually add about 1/2 cup olive oil, pounding or processing as you go, until you have a rich, dark sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy with grilled meats and seafood, or add to soups and other dishes for an extra kick, or to mayonnaise for added spice.

Note To make your salsa romesco even richer, add 2 or 3 coarsely chopped sun-dried tomatoes. If using sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, simply drain first, and pound along with the other ingredients. Sun-dried tomatoes not stored in oil should be soaked with the pepper before using.

Works well with

Beefsteak (pp52-63) Plum (pp64-73)

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