EXTRA SMOKY WALNUT ROMESCO
Maybe 10 years ago, a friend first served me a romesco sauce, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It was a classic version with Marcona almonds and thickened with stale bread. My version uses walnuts—smoked walnuts, at that—in place of both. The walnuts offer a more distinct nuttiness than the almonds while ramping up the toasty, smoky flavor. I find a more complex sauce works really well with vegetables. I still love the classic, but this is the version I make more often than not.
My favorite way to serve it is with a large platter of grilled or roasted vegetables. It’s kind of showy but always well received. Eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms all benefit from a big spoonful of romesco. In fact, I’ve yet to find a vegetable I don’t want to eat with it. It’s also really nice to dip some good bread in, especially when given an extra drizzle of olive oil. And then there’s pizza. This romesco is an amazing pizza sauce; one that voids any need for cheese substitutes. The peppers and tomatoes lend the familiar sweet and tangy flavor you’d expect from a pizza sauce, while the walnuts satisfy the desire for something creamy and cheesy.
Extra Smoky Walnut Romesco
Makes about 16 oz.
-1 cup walnuts
-2 red bell peppers
-2 roma tomatoes, skinned and seeded
-1 small clove garlic
-¼ cup olive oil
-1 tbsp sherry vinegar
-1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
-pinch cayenne pepper
-½ tsp salt + more to taste
1. Layer a piece of aluminum foil in your stovetop smoker* and add walnuts. Smoke walnuts with alder wood (or wood of your choice) on very low heat for 10 minutes, careful not to roast the walnuts too much. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, put whole red bell peppers over an open flame on the stove. Rotate peppers every minute or two until the flesh is soft and the skin is blackened. While still hot, place peppers in a bowl and cover for 15-20 minutes. Remove peppers, peel and seed.
3. Add roasted peppers, smoked walnuts and remaining ingredients to a high speed blender or food processor. Process until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning as you like.
*If you don’t have a stovetop or other smoker don’t sweat it. Simply toast the walnuts in a dry pan for a minute or two, careful not to burn them . Plus, you’ll still get plenty of smoky flavor from the paprika and roasted peppers.