In the Catalan regions of Spain, the end of winter is heralded by a Calçotada, a food festival where spring onions are roasted and drenched with a tasty red pepper sauce known as romesco. This deceptively simple sauce has a complicated relationship with Spanish history: the olive oil, wine and bread base probably came to Spain through the Romans as early as the 1st Century, but the distinctive creamy texture of almonds and the sharpness of onions and garlic may not have made their way into Spanish cuisine until about 10 centuries later during the Moorish occupation. The peppers (and tomatoes called for in some versions) that are the centerpiece of this sauce were brought to Spain by victorious Conquistadors returning from the New World a few centuries later.
Even better - for a sauce that was fifteen centuries in the making, it's fairly easy to make - in this case, almost like a Spanish version of five-can-casserole. There are a number of variations on Romesco sauce, but after fiddling around a bit, I decided that this slightly unorthodox version is my favorite:
1 tbsp freeze-dried onion flakes
1 tsp onion powder
1 cup of white wine, divided (2 tablespoons white wine)
1 tsp jarred garlic
1/4 cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1/3 cup almonds (slivered or flakes)
1 jar roasted red peppers
1/3 cup canned carrots, rinsed and drained
2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp wine vinegar
salt to taste
Hydrate the onion flakes and powder in 2 tbsp of wine overnight, or heat in the microwave for 15 seconds and allow to rest for 10 min. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and saute the onions and garlic until the liquid has evaporated. Add the slivered almonds and saute until fragrant. Add the remaining wine and the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil; cook for 5 minutes. Pour the sauce into a blender and blend, adding olive oil as necessary to get a thick, smooth sauce. Pour over pasta, or use as a dip for bread or crudite.
(Shown above over Argentine Ñoquis - the subject of an upcoming blog post: the sharpness of the sauce is an excellent foil for these pillowy, starchy potato dumplings.)