I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I love cooking. It’s such an integral part of who I am that it’s not something I question or even ponder very often. But now and then I come across someone who clearly states how much they don't like cooking. They don’t like the mess, the fuss; they dislike the grocery shopping and being in the kitchen, the cleaning up, the endless decisions to be made about meals and ingredients and it’s all such a bother and they’d rather not have to deal with it all, thank you.
In a way, I get that. It really can be a bit of a pain at times to throw a meal together if you’re uninspired or tired or pressed for time or all of the above. And there are those of us who have other more inspiring interests that kitchen time takes us away from. Or for others, it really just isn’t all that interesting.
I’m guessing that because you’re here, reading a food blog, and not over there at the gardening blog, you probably have at least a minimal interest in cooking. Perhaps you’re as enamored of the whole endeavor as I am.
For me, and perhaps for you as well, my love for all things culinary begins with my first love, which happens to be eating. I work backwards from there. My excitement over what we might be eating for dinner tonight begets an urge to create which leads to ideas and planning, the gathering of ingredients, the chopping, stirring, the aromas of possibility that begin to float ever so subtly from the pan. It’s intoxicating really. It can be as simple as a salad with a poached egg and fresh bread or as intricate as a soufflé, but the beauty is in the creating and the joy of offering nourishment to others or simply feeding oneself.
I realize that we’re not all wired to feel excitement about the same things, and thank goodness, for those of us who love to cook, there are those who are willing to be fed.
I’m not sure how all of this leads to an impossibly delicious recipe for romesco sauce, but maybe it’s that I had such fun making it… roasting the peppers, toasting and grinding the almonds, blanching and peeling tomatoes to sauté in a little olive oil with some garlic, and then tossing it all in the food processor to be transformed into this gorgeous pumpkin-colored sauce that I want to slather on everything. As I was chopping and slicing and stirring away, I was wondering how many other people would be as happy and content as I was to be doing such.
But having made it and knowing there’s this jar of scrumptious romesco sauce in the fridge is a bit of a reminder of how lucky I am to love to cook and be surrounded by people who love to eat. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Here’s the recipe…
Adapted from the Tasting Table
A little about romesco...
Romesco sauce is Spanish in origin and is used there as a sauce for simmering seafood as well as a condiment for meat, chicken, eggs or grilled veggies. I haven’t found anything yet that didn’t love a bit of romesco with it. Last night I made a pizza with romesco sauce and Italian sausage and it was killer. Our favorite application so far has been serving it with seared scallops (see post photo). That was simply amazing. It’s also really good with pasta and shrimp and as a topping for crostini. If you’re pressed for time, you can use canned tomatoes instead of fresh and roasted red peppers from a jar. This will save you some time and effort, but probably cost you some in the flavor department. Enjoy!
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled and seeded
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons almonds, toasted
3 tablespoons skinned hazelnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons dried chile flakes (more or less as desired)
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
5 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon salt
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic. Cook until soft and saucy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool a bit.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almonds and hazelnuts until ground fairly fine. Add the sherry vinegar, chile flakes, salt and smoked paprika until it forms a coarse paste. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the tomatoes and roasted peppers and continue pulsing until a coarse sauce forms.
Note: the original recipe had the garlic going in the food processor raw with the almonds and hazelnuts. If you would like a sharper garlic flavor, this would be a good option. I liked cooking the garlic with the tomatoes first which not only flavored the tomatoes, but softened the garlic. Your call.