In keeping with the "simple cooking" theme of the last post, I was reminded of how easy my entertaining life used to be as I was uploading the picture above. Before I fancied myself a sort of culinary explorer, one who was sure that any proper gathering needed some new and interesting route to satisfy the appetites of my friends, the deli aisle in the grocery store provided unlimited pleasures. Back then in my Paleolithic cooking era when I wouldn't even know how to turn on a food processor and was sure that if I did own such an extravagance that the little blade was just biding its time, waiting to add a new and gruesome dimension to whatever else might be thrown into the mixing bowl, a tub of hummus and some sliced bread for appetizers was considered high living. Why would I consider making my own salsa fresca when some multi-national corporation had so thoughtfully prepackaged some for me and priced it so attractively? And Tillamook sharp cheddar, at a premium price I might add, was just the thing to throw on some Triscuits (a current guilty pleasure I have not yet put behind me and has also been considered "dinner").
I'm not pining for the past, mind you. Time marches on and I take ever greater pleasure with every new culinary discovery. And if that new dish happens to be as delicious and easy to make as this romesco from Anya von Bremzen's The New Spanish Table cookbook (a new purchase I love), so much the better. In just 20 minutes...less if you already have the toasted hazelnuts...you can put thoughts of Reser's French Onion Dip far behind and have a complex, flavor popping spread for bread, and I'm thinking if you have extra and add a little more olive oil and some of water from the pasta pot, a pretty good pasta sauce. Now that I have long ago brought my food processor to heel, life is still quite simple, and even more satisfying!
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Toasted Hazelnut Romesco
from The New Spanish Table
1 medium sized dried ñora pepper or ancho chile, stemmed, seeded, and torn into small pieces
2/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see below)
2 large garlic cloves
1-1/2 tablespoons toasted bread crumbs (panko bread crumbs worked fine- bb)
1 small, ripe plum tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet (not smoked) paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons best quality red wine vinegar
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1-Place dried pepper pieces in a small bowl, add 1/2 cup very hot water, and soak until softened, 20-30 minutes. Drain, setting aside the soaking liquid.
2-Place the hazelnuts in the food processor and pulse until they are ground medium-fine. Add the pepper pieces, 1/3 cup of soaking liquid, and the garlic. Bread crumbs, tomato, paprika, and cayenne, and process until fairly smooth but still with some texture from the nuts. With the motor running drizzle the olive oil in until it is completely incorporated.
3-Scrape the sauce into a bowl. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt to taste. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste the sauce before serving, adding more vinegar and cayenne if desired. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.
note: The vinegar is the key here. It really makes the flavors pop so it definitely pays to use a high quality vinegar.- bb
Toasted Hazelnuts....preheat oven to 350*. Spread nuts on rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minuets until skins start to darken and blister. Remove from oven and wrap in dish towel and let cool for 5 minutes. While nuts are still in the towel, rub vigorously to remove as much skin as possible. There will still be a fair amount of skin attached to nuts, but it doesn't matter in the finished dish. -bb
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: 1999 Pommard from Burgundy, aka "real" pinot noir!