Sunday, September 12, 2010

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Romesco Sauce

You know those times when you are really looking forward to trying a new dish, only to walk away less than impressed? Such was the case for me a couple of weeks ago. I was stepping up to a lovely catered meal - everything was fresh, gorgeous, healthy - a stunning spread. One of the main entrees was grilled chicken with what sounded like an amazing accompaniment: toasted pumpkin seed Romesco sauce. I was salivating.

Romesco sauce is a classic Spanish roasted red pepper and tomato sauce bursting with flavor and spice. It's made in its traditional form with almonds, hazelnuts, olive oil, roasted garlic, and sometimes even some stale breadcrumbs to add some tooth. Add some smoky paprika, some acid from a lime or red wine vinegar - and wow. You've got yourself a powerhouse of a sauce that tastes great when served with chicken or fish - or even just slathered on a chunk of rustic bread. I was looking forward to trying the caterer's twist on this favorite of mine.

Well, I shouldn't have been so anticipatory. Yawn. The sauce was boring, bland and almost an affront to the title. Romesco sauce, my ass. My disappointed parting thought from that otherwise stellar lunch was that I could do a much better job making the sauce. So that's just what I did.

This past weekend, some Utah Angells descended on Napa Valley and I had the delight of hosting my aunt, uncle and cousins for a BBQ. Not only was it a really fantastic get-together to hang out with family, it gave me a chance to try my hand on the sauce that had been on my mind for weeks. And it turned out great - just as flavorful and bold as a Romesco sauce should be! (Angells - back me up... right?)

So here I give you my version of toasted pumpkin seed Romesco sauce - and I promise it won't disappoint. It's super duper easy - it's basically a three-ingredient recipe, jazzed up with spices. I didn't use breadcrumbs, but did use a lot of pumpkin seeds in order to give it some body. This recipe makes a fair amount (I was feeding ten) - but any leftovers store really well in the fridge. I used the extra from our gathering over some spaghetti squash the next day... still delish.

Toasted Pumpkin Seed Romesco Sauce
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1+ Tbs. chili powder (give the seeds a good coating)
  • Olive oil, enough to barely coat a large nonstick frying pan

  • 3 roasted red peppers, skins removed (if you don't roast your own peppers, 1 12-ounce jar of roasted peppers, drained, is the equivalent)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs. crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
On the stovetop, heat the olive oil. Add the pumpkin seeds and spices and toast until the seeds begin to pop. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Drain on a paper towel.

In a food processor, add all of the ingredients except for the olive oil and slat/pepper; puree until smooth. With the processor going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to emulsify the sauce. Season to taste.

You can then heat it up on the stovetop if you'd like to serve it warm.

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