I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I am helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me. C.S. Lewis
One day at work I looked up and realized it was 11:30 AM. Not an unusual discovery, nor even odd. I often look up at work and realize it’s 11:30 AM. I have a Pavlovian reaction to that time of day – it’s when I eat lunch. What was unusual was that I had forgotten my lunch at home. Bummer. Okay, so what to eat? We have lots of restaurants around, but nothing sounded good to me. We even have a pretty nice restaurant in the building. But still, nothing clicked. Plus, it was an amazing weather day so I decided to go for a drive to see if anything called my name.
As soon as I got in my car I remembered this amazing little deli called D’Amico. It’s a little further away than I usually go, but they have great salads, soups and sandwiches. Once I got there I spotted this lovely salad made up of cold tender-crisp vegetables and garbanzo beans. Very fresh, very enticing. So I asked for a serving and the guy behind the counter asked me if I wanted some of the sauce sitting next to it on my salad. It looked like regular red sauce, which frankly, didn’t hold a lot appeal for me for topping a veggie salad, but I decided to try some anyway. Needless to say, I nearly swooned when I tasted it. I practically licked the container to get every last tasty bit. And I didn’t even care that for the rest of the day I was breathing the hot breath of death by garlic to every unsuspecting co-worker who happened by me that day.
Of course, I didn’t know it was called Romesco sauce, but I immediately went on line and looked at D’Amico’s Web page, found the description for the salad, and wrote “Romesco” on my hand. When I got home that night, I was obsessed with researching this yummy concocotion. And what I found is that it is mostly made of garlic. Just kidding. There is a lot of garlic in it, however. I think it’s sort of the Latin version of Skordalia, the Greek garlic spread (which is just as lucious, by the way). Frankly, as much as I love garlic I’m pretty disappointed in myself for just now discovering Romesco. Which could also be called Red Nectar. Apparently it’s sort of the ketchup of Spain. The best thing about it is you can add different ingredients to it to slightly change the flavor – like mint, fennel, peppers, hot peppers, wine, bread, etc. What I found is that the most common ingredients are filberts (hazelnuts), almonds, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper, olive oil, salt, and vinegar. So that’s how I made mine. I found a wonderful recipe here: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/romesco_sauce.aspx which I altered just a bit.
Here we have ground almonds, filberts, salt, yummy olive oil (this one is very fruity), tomatoes, GARLIC, red wine vinegar, pepper, an ancho chili, some bread, and some dry red wine.
Preheat oven to 350°. Core the tomatoes and place them on a pan for roasting. Drizzle some olive oil in the center of the tomato. Bake them for about 1-1/2 hours.
Chop the top off of a head of garlic. Now smell it. Take a bite if you want!
After you’re done playing with it, put it on a piece of tinfoil, and drizzle it with oil. Now wrap it up really tight and put it in the oven with the tomatoes. You’ll leave it in for about 35 minutes.
Here’s how it looks after it’s roasted. At this point you may have to physically restrain yourself from spreading it on a cracker and eating it right now.
Squeeze all this yumminess out of the skin and put it in your food processor or blender.
When the tomatoes are done, let them cool for a bit and then pull the skins off so you just have the meaty insides. Put these in with the roasted garlic. Leave the oven on. Please accept my apologies for my complete inability to photograph anything red so that it looks remotely nice. I will get it eventually, but…
Roast some filberts for about 10 minutes or so. Give them a shake every once in awhile. When they’re done, let them cool for about 30 minutes or so.
Now toast the almonds. I know this doesn’t look like toasted almonds. I have a bag of blanched almond “flour” which is just finely ground almonds. But they taste so much better if they’re toasted! Be careful, ground almonds will burn much more easily than whole ones. I put them in the oven for about 7 minutes and stir every few minutes. When done, put them in the food processor. Alternatively, use whole blanched almonds and toast for about 10 to 15 minutes, and add them to the food processor.
Cut the ancho chili open and flatten it out.
Take all the seeds out, and get rid of the stem.
Roast this in a frying pan over medium high heat, and press it down with a spatula. Should take about 10 to 15 seconds on each side.
Now put it in a cup of warm water, weigh it down with a spoon, and let it soak for about 15 minutes to get nice and soft. Discard the water, and put the chili in the food processor with the tomatoes and garlic and almonds.
Now it’s time to peel the filberts. Put them in a clean towel…
Wrap the towel around the filberts and vigorously rub the nuts together through the towel.
So we have the chili, the almonds, the hazelnuts, the tomatoes, and the garlic. Add in the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
Slowly pour the olive oil into the food processor in a thin stream while the food processor is running. It should be spreadable, but not really thick. If it’s too thin, you can add some stale bread crumbs. Too thick? A little red wine. Now, if you want this super garlicky, you can add some fresh garlic cloves the mix.
I discovered it’s wonderful on bread! Seriously wonderful.
Makes about 7 ounces. Keep this in the fridge. Eat it on things like veggies, pasta, meats or just with spoon. You should make this as soon as possible. It is loverly.
1 garlic bulb, roasted
4 or 5 medium tomatoes, roasted
1/3 cup olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1/3 cup filberts, toasted and peeled
1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds, toasted until light brown
2 to 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 dried anchoo chili
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste.
Preheat oven to 350°. You will use this oven temperature for everything you roast, bake or toast.
Core the tomatoes, drizzle the cores with olive oil, and roast for about 90 minutes. Let cool, and remove skins. Place in the bowl of a food processor or a blender.
Cut the anchoo chili open, spread it flat, and remove the seeds and stem. Press into a frying pan over medium high heat to roast – 10 to 15 seconds on each site. Put into a cup of warm water and weigh down with a spoon. Let it soak for about 15 minutes until soft, take it out of the water, and add it to food processor.
Cut the top off a bulb of garlic. Place on a piece of tin foil, and drizzle the top with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and bake for 35 minutes. Let cool, and press garlic out of skins. Add to the food processor.
Toast the ground almonds for about 8 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Alternatively, toast whole blanched almonds, let cool, and add to food processor.
Toast the filberts for about 10 to 15 minutes. Place on a clean towel and let cool for about 30 minutes. When cool, twist the towel around and rub the nuts together through the towel. This will remove the skins! Put the skinned filberts into the food processor.
Add the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to the food processor. Put the lid on, and start the motor. While it’s running, add the vinegar in a thin stream until well combined. If it’s too thin, you can add some dried bread crumbs to thicken it up. Too thick? Add a tablespoon at a time of dry red wine until it’s the desired thickness.