Tasty romesco sauce can be used on meats, potatoes or veggies

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

Would you like to have an all-purpose sauce that you can mix with pasta, shrimp, chicken or vegetables, either before or after they are cooked, much like you would a pesto? Even use it as a dipping sauce for meats and veggies?

Romesco sauce is a classic and popular Spanish condiment, a spicy almond and red pepper pesto-like mixture. It can be used on everything from grilled fish and meats to cold vegetable salads.

Area fishermen in northeastern Spain originally made romesco sauce to eat with their fish catch. It is great with seafood, but is also a tasty sauce to accompany meat and vegetables as well. It’s such a popular sauce in Spain that it has been referred to as the “ketchup” of Spain. Try it on meats, potatoes, vegetables or just some steamed green beans served with your favorite roast pork loin.

Spanish Romesco Sauce

Roasted red peppers combine with ground almonds, olive oil and vinegar to make a smooth, rich sauce that can be just spread on a slice of crusty bread to enjoy.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1-2 one-inch thick slices of crusty bread, torn into pieces

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped or slivered (can substitute hazelnuts, peeled)

5-6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 15-oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 8-oz. jar roasted red bell peppers

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika (preferred) or sweet paprika

2-3 Tbsps sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, sauté the bread and almonds, stirring often, until they just begin to brown. Add chopped garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes, stirring often.

Place the mixture into a food processor with the remaining ingredients (salt, tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, smoked paprika, vinegar and pepper flakes). Pulse on and off until it starts to come together. After about 30 seconds, you’ll have a coarse or chunky romesco. For a smoother all-purpose sauce (my preference), blend about another minute.

It’s better if refrigerated in a sealed container for at least one day, allowing the flavors to meld together. Make sure you taste it and adjust for salt. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Sauce will last for a week or more in the fridge. It freezes well, too.

Roasted Shrimp with Romesco Sauce

Tangy romesco sauce is tossed with roasted pan-seared shrimp.

1 lb. jumbo shrimp (26-30 count)

2-3 Tbsps. olive oil

Romesco sauce

Peel and devein the shrimp. Place the raw shrimp in a bowl and coat with some of the romesco sauce. In a large skillet or roasting pan, heat oil to almost smoking. Pan sear the shrimp quickly in the oil until almost opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Roast for 10 minutes in a 450-degree oven. Serve shrimp with romesco sauce on the side for dipping. Makes up to 4 servings.

Marinated Chicken Kabobs with Romesco Sauce

The chicken is marinated in a garlic-lemon sauce and grilled with green onions and served with romesco sauce.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp. garlic paste

Pinch of sea salt

1 lemon

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil

12 spring onions (green onions)

Romesco sauce

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Add the garlic paste and a pinch of sea salt. Slice the lemon in half and then squeeze the juice (no seeds) over the chicken. Season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle all over with olive oil. Using your (clean) hands, mix the chicken and marinade until well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2-3 hours or overnight.

Preheat your grill to medium heat (350 degrees). If using wooden skewers, soak them for an hour or so in cold water. Cut the green onions into 1-1/2 inch lengths, discarding the dark green ends.

Thread pieces of chicken onto skewers, alternating with lengths of onion. Grill for 10-12 minutes, turning once, until chicken is cooked through (juices will run clear when the meat is pierced in the thickest part).

Serve immediately with some roasted potatoes and the romesco sauce on the side. Makes 4-6 servings.

Roasted Potatoes              and Carrots with       Romesco Sauce

These potatoes go well with the chicken kabobs or any other grilled meat.

1 lb. small red potatoes, halved

2 large carrots, cleaned and cut in one-inch chunks

3 Tbsps. extra virgin olive oil

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 bay leaves

6 springs thyme

1 cup Romesco sauce

2 Tbsps. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the potatoes and carrots in a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan and toss well with 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast in the oven until tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Squeeze the garlic out of each clove and set aside.

Transfer skillet to the stovetop and heat on high for a couple minutes. Add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, mix well, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook another minutes or so. Smash the potatoes and carrots slightly with a spatula or fork. Season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper and sauté about 6-8 minutes until crispy on one side (if stuck to the pan, don’t worry. They will eventually release by themselves).

After browned on one side, turn them over to brown on all sides. Spoon the romesco sauce and reserved roasted garlic over the potatoes and stir. Toss in the parsley. Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Asparagus          with Balsamic Vinegar, Shaved Parmesan and Romesco Sauce

You can roast asparagus on the grill, but I prefer to just place them on a cookie sheet, season with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at high heat.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1-1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed

3 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese, shavings

Romesco sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the asparagus spears on a cookie sheet and season with olive oil, salt and pepper; turn until well coated. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until tender. To serve, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and scatter Parmesan cheese shavings over the top. Spoon some romesco sauce on each plate. Makes 4 servings.