One of the most irrisistible, all-purpose vegetarian sauces in existence is some variation of the classic Spanish romesco sauce, which is based on red peppers, nuts, bread and oil. It’s good on fish, meat, vegetables, as a dip, you name it. The original version is fine but I prefer variations with no bread and more vegetables. Here are two. The first is based on a Jerry Traunfeld recipe and the second is a diet version I made up that I eat all the time as a condiment on pretty much anything. It has no fat/oil, no sugar, just veggies, hence negligible calories. And it’s delicious!
Red Pepper-Hazelnut-Herb Sauce
A better-tasting variation of the wonderful Spanish romesco sauce, this easy-to-make all-vegetable sauce is divine on fish, meat, vegetables and is a delicious dip or sandwich spread as well. The original recipe is in Jerry Traunfeld’s (former chef at the Herbfarm near Seattle) first cookbook (a winner, btw) but I’ve changed it a little and simplified it even more than it was. The sauce has big flavors, tang, succulence and a super sweet/tart/spicy balance. It’s killer with all grilled foods, in particular.
2 large red bell peppers
easiest is to buy fire-roasted peppers in jars in the market or the deli section; a time-consuming and not-necessary option is to roast, peel and seed fresh peppers yourself
½ cup of roasted, skinned hazelnuts
fastest and most expensive is to buy roasted, skinned nuts in a gourmet market but it’s easy to roast them at home (350 degrees, ~13 minutes, rub off skins as well as you can with a dishtowel
2-3 peeled garlic cloves
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1-2 tablespoon fresh rosemary
3 tablespoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
1 teaspoon sugar.
salt & pepper to taste
(optional) a little cayenne pepper
1/3 to ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil
you can use less oil to reduce the calorie count; it will still be tasty
Process all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor or blender until the hazelnuts are finely ground. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. The sauce should have the consistency of thick salad dressing. Taste and add more salt or cayenne if desired. The sauce can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes 1 3/4 cups
Low-Calorie Red Pepper/Eggplant “Sauce”
This flavorful, super-light, all-vegetable sauce/spread/dip is simple to make and good with just about anything.I use it as a dip for veggies but it would be good with grilled fish, fowl or meat, as a sandwich spread, or a dietetic topping to jazz up cooked foods. And it’s very healthy, too. The magical ingredient is pimenton, Spanish smoked paprika that gives an exotic taste to all sorts of dishes.I keep tons of this in the fridge and eat it with celery sticks – very few calories but very filling!
1 large onion (any kind), peeled
3-4 red bell peppers, stems & seeds removed
1 medium globe eggplant (or the equivalent amount of any eggplant variety), stem removed
½ cup (or amount to taste) white vinegar
2-3 slightly crushed peeled garlic cloves (or more, if desired)
(optional) 3 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
~1 rounded teas. pimenton (available online or at Draeger’s) or more or less
Preheat oven to 375.
Roughly chop vegetables and place in bowl with crushed garlic. Add vinegar and (if using) olive oil.The oil isn’t necessary for the recipe.Add salt & pepper to taste and the pimenton. Toss briefly to mix. Spread in a baking tray or some sort of roasting dish that will hold all the ingredients.
Roast (turn on the convection if your oven has it) for around 45-50 minutes or until vegetables are browned and softened and you begin smelling them.
When cool enough to handle, put (probably in batches) in a food processor and process until pureed but not smooth – keeping some texture is more interesting and attractive. Adjust seasonings.
Makes approx. 4 cups or so of “sauce.”Store in the fridge.Can be reheated in the microwave as needed.Can even be frozen in batches and defrosted.
About pimenton: Smoked Paprika [pimenton], made in Spain from smoked, ground pimiento peppers and often referred to as simply smoked paprika, can be found in varying intensities from sweet and mild (dulce) bittersweet medium hot (agridulce) and hot (picante). This paprika is not the relatively bland stuff you get at the local supermarket. It’s more a cousin to traditional Hungarian paprika but even the hot versions are seductive rather than searing. What makes all of these varieties distinct is the deep smoky flavor they share. The color is a striking deep red that spreads through any dish to which it is added. It has an intoxicating smoky aroma from the slow oak smoking, and a silky texture from the repeated grinding between stones. It’s sometimes called Pimenton de la Vera. It’s a great spice to experiment with!