Thursday, April 30, 2009
It's rare that I deliver on my gratuitous on-line promises, but today is an exception. I've had the recipe for an unbelievable salsa romesco on my hands for some time and it seems a profound transgression not to share it. Not only is it straight from Tarragona--cradle of the romesco sauce and charming Roman town just an hour outside of Barcelona--, it's also a tried and true family recipe, courtesy of Mrs. Fernández Roig, a.k.a. Jordi's mom, who prepared it for a crowd of hungry calçot eaters earlier this spring. See the Calçotada post for details.
You may not know a lot about salsa romesco; it doesn't have the international caché of an allioli or a bernaise, but it does have the chops and is a Catalan favourite. It's sweet, it's savoury, it's smooth, it's crunchy and, while it goes with almost anything (I was spreading it liberally on toasted bread recently), it's most commonly served with roasted vegetables, including calçots, as well as fish and seafood.
The base, in addition to ground nuts and olive oil, contains a type of pepper that is difficult to find outside of Spain. The traditional peppers used are often referred to as "romesco peppers" and can easily be found in Catalunya; they are distinct from ñora peppers which are often also used. These peppers are smaller than your average red pepper and have a richness that a regular capsicum does not. Outside of Spain, red bell peppers can be substituted, but I'm afraid the substitution, if not exactly second rate, makes the salsa more of a romesco "lite".
Now, here is the recipe, just as it was provided to me--with translation and some explanation. I must say I had to guess regarding the quantities of pimentón, olive oil, and vinegar, but that is the beauty of a family recipe.
125 gr toasted almonds
125 gr toasted hazelnuts
50 gr pine nuts
1/2 head garlic
5 dried "romesco" peppers
a tiny bit of raw garlic, pressed (to taste)
a tiny bit of sugar (to taste)
1 tsp spicy pimentón (or hot paprika)
about a cup of olive oil
about half a cup of red wine vinegar
salt (to taste)
cayenne pepper (to taste; optional and not part of Jordi's mom's recipe)
Char grill the onion, tomatoes, garlic and blanch the peppers (if using fresh peppers, char grill these too). (If you are Jordi's mom, you will do the char grilling over a wood fire in the outdoor brick oven in your backyard; if you are not, you will likely have to do with your home oven at about 220 degrees C for 30 minutes or so.) Once the vegetables have cooled sufficiently, remove the skin. You will now have to use a food processor unless you have freakishly strong arms and a giant mortar and pestle. Start with the nuts; add the vegetables and seasonings next; and finish things off with the olive oil, added slowly in a thin stream to ensure the sauce holds together (some add a bit of toasted bread to the mix to help with the consistency). Process until well mixed but not completely smooth. Add vinegar and salt to taste at the very end.
By the way, to be completely authentic, you should buy your olive oil and hazelnuts in Constanti, the town where Jordi's mom was born.
This recipe will serve ten, so prepare to share.