This is a pretty standard light dinner for me: some form of seafood + smoky, spicy romesco sauce. With a glass of wine (or a G&T) and a green salad, it's a complete meal.
I love romesco and never get tired of its smoky, tart edge. Romesco sauce, if you're not familiar with it, is a Spanish roasted red pepper-based condiment. As with most traditional dishes, there are an infinite number of variations but the basic elements are roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic, smoked paprika, olive oil, herbs, and sherry vinegar. From there, some recipes also include hazelnuts, pine nuts, roasted tomatoes, tomato paste, bread, and other types of vinegar. This is my own interpretation with gluten-free bread and a double dose of tomatoes.
It's an indispensable sauce that basically complements everything from egg dishes to sandwiches to grilled vegetables. Sometimes I stir it into cooked grains, such as millet, and soups. This recipe makes a few cups and leftovers can be stored in the freezer so it's an amazing staple to have on hand for flavorful impromptu lunches and dinners.
As for the seafood, I chose shrimp but feel free to substitute whatever looks fresh at the market. I like to roast the shrimp for added flavor -- I've never understood the appeal of shrimp cocktail but perhaps I've only been exposed to bad shrimp cocktail. And no, you don't necessarily need a recipe for basic roasted shrimp but I needed an excuse to mention Ina Garten. Why? Because Ina is great and I've been addicted to her show for years. She is, in my opinion, the queen of hosting/entertaining and gourmet dining (sorry, Martha -- my loyalties lie elsewhere).
That's it -- hope you enjoy this light and healthy reprieve before the next round of aggressive holiday dining.
Makes 3 cups
4 red bell peppers, roasted and seeded (see below)
4 Roma tomatoes, roasted (see below)
1/2 cup Marcona almonds, raw
2 slices stale gluten-free bread (or 1 slice other bread)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup Italian parsley
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
Roasted peppers: Turn on the broiler. Place whole peppers on a large baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Broil the peppers, turning them every 10 minutes or so until the skin is completely charred on all sides and the peppers have collapsed. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for about 20 minutes or so. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them -- the skin should slip right off. (Another method). Discard the stem and seeds.
Roasted tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and squeeze out the seeds and pulp. Toss the tomatoes with a little bit of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat) and lay them flat on a baking sheet, cut side up. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes until soft and fully cooked through. Allow the tomatoes to cool for 10 minutes or so, and then peel them (again, the skin should slip right off).
If your bread is not stale, toast it in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can dry it out in the oven at 350 F degrees for a few minutes. Deborah Madison recommends frying the bread in a little bit of olive oil until crisp -- that's an option, too. Be sure to allow the bread to cool before you process the sauce.
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until fragrant and lightly brown. Watch the almonds carefully.
Grind the almonds, bread, and garlic in a large food processor. Add the peppers, tomatoes, bread, parsley, tomato paste, smoked paprika, thyme, red pepper flakes, and sea salt, and process until smooth. With the motor running, slow pour in the sherry vinegar and then the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Taste for seasoning, adding additional vinegar, salt, or heat, as needed.
Serve with Lemon Roasted Shrimp (see below for recipe) or in other dishes. Leftover romesco can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a month.
Note: The peppers require more time to cool so I typically broil the peppers first and then roast the tomatoes while the peppers are cooling. To save time, you can substitute store-bought roasted red peppers. I use sweet smoked paprika in this recipe and adjust the heat with crushed chili flakes. If using hot smoked paprika, omit the chili flakes. You can substitute regular almonds for the Marcona almonds.
This meals calls for a lot of roasting. I find it easiest to prepare the romesco sauce in advance and then roast shrimp (or vegetables or whatever) just before you'd like to serve it.
Lemon Roasted Shrimp
Adapted from Ina Garten
2 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
Roast for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until fully cooked through. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the shrimp while still warm and toss. Serve with romesco sauce.