Romesco: Spanish Summer Sauce/Dip
Makes 1½ cups
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, egg or legumes)
Vibrant in colour and taste. Use this hot on pasta, potato, green beans, legumes, boiled eggs, fish or chicken. Or serve cold as a dip, or as a dressing on salad. Variations follow. Great use for sun-blessed summer vegetables. There are many regional variations of Romesco. The veg might be fried or roasted and then pureed with toasted bread and hazelnuts or almonds. Historically, this was one of the many ways to use up stale bread. The result is thick, hearty with the vivid red of tomato and capsicum.
Some people do not do well with the nightshade family of vegetables (including potato, tomato and peppers; contact this office for an allergy test). However, eating them only when in season can increase tolerance. This Mediterranean type of sauce is mostly pureed vegetables. The olive oil will enhance absorption of their fat soluble vitamins such as ADEK.
It is currently trendy to declare that an all raw diet is superior. When early hominids ate that way they were ape-like with large chests and massive jaws to help breakdown the big quantity of plant food necessary for survival. Cooking can help make many nutrients more available by breaking down cell walls. Raw food will have more vitamin C and enzymes though. So here’s an idea that transcends fleeting fashions: enjoy both!
1 medium slice gluten-free bread, in small chunks
¼ cup hazelnuts
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
2 large tomatoes, well chopped
1 red pepper, well chopped
1 small chilli pepper, chopped (or ¼ – ½ tsp chilli flakes)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp smoky sweet paprika*
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp sea salt with kelp*
In a large frypan, toast the nuts and bread (no need for oil) until lightly browned. Remove from heat. When at room temperature, whizz in food processor until the size of crumbs.
Meanwhile place the oil in the frypan along with the well chopped vegetables. The amount of oil will simmer rather than brown the vegetables to retain their colour. Add the tomato, pepper, chilli, garlic and paprika. Simmer briskly 20 – 30 minutes until veg are completely soft and sweet. Add mixture to breadcrumbs and puree with vinegar and salt. Use hot as is or chill.
• Use as a dip for raw carrot, cucumber and rice crackers;
• Serve cold as a dressing for a main dish salad of lettuce, potato or pasta, grated or cooked beetroot. As a protein option add cannellini beans, boiled eggs, tinned or fresh fish, or cooked chicken or lamb;
• Serve hot over pasta with olives, tinned tuna or sardines; accompany with side salad;
• Fry fish or chicken; top with sauce and simmer gently for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Shopping and Preparation Tips*
• Olive Oil: extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my TIPS article: The Fats of Life.
• Paprika: only use top quality smoky, sweet Spanish paprika such as La Chinata. This is sold in small decorative tins in the supermarket. Ordinary paprika is usually stale, pale and without the punchy vigour this product contributes to dishes.
• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed or kelp (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. NOTE these are less salty in taste than other brands. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. All other minerals are stripped away, such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Bleach as a whitener and chemicals to prevent clumping may be added to table salt.