I'm sure I say this pretty frequently about blog events but Regional Recipes: Spain had me stumped. The problem was this. I didn't want to make something obvious like paella or gazpacho or ceviche, not because I don't like these dishes but because I've had them before and I think the whole point of Regional Recipes is to force yourself to cook outside your comfort zone and explore new things. So take all of those out of the equation.
Obstacle number two: tapas. I love tapas. I really do. But when you are cooking for one it is just not practical (or cost-effective) to make four or five small dishes. This doesn't seem problematic except for the fact that most of the information out there about Spanish food revolves around tapas.
So picture me sitting at my computer for hours, biting my nails, pulling out my hair and generally adding years onto my life doing google search after google search.
And then there was romesco. In Spanish, romesco can refer to three things - a seafood stew, a variety of medium-mild dried pepper, and (the more relevant definition, at least for this post) a sauce that originates from Catalonia. Although many variations of this dish exist, most combine ground almonds or hazelnuts with pureed tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and vinegar, yielding a sauce that is simultaneously incredibly complex and incredibly appetizing. With each bite, you are hit with the sweetness of the peppers and tomatoes as well as the acidity of the vinegar. The fat from the nuts serves to tie it all together and makes the dish all the more hearty. Although it is very often served with fish or meat (as most dishes in Spain are), I chose to go vegetarian (vegan actually!) with this one, using a recipe from Veganomicon that pairs the sauce with chickpeas. I am submitting this to Regional Recipes, which is being hosted this month at Blazing Hot Wok.
Serves 4, adapted from Veganomicon
1/2 cup sliced almonds
28 oz canned diced tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeledand deseeded (I roasted my own - just place them under the broiler, continually watching and turning them until they are charred on all sides. Then put them in a closed container or paper bag for 10-15 minutes. The skin will peel right off after that.)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 serrano chili pepper, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup brown rice
1. Set up the brown rice, either in a rice cooker (my first time using one!) or on the stovetop as per the package's instructions.
2. Grind the almonds into crumbs. Set aside.
3. Puree the tomatoes and roasted red peppers together until smooth. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.
4. Preheat a pan. Heat the olive oil. Saute the garlic, shallots, and serrano for 4-5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and stir. Simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomato/pepper puree, vinegar, sugar, thyme, and rosemary. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the ground almonds and stir. Fold in the chickpeas and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add salt to taste, and serve over the brown rice (or grain of your choice).