Here’s a spectacular salsa that I’ve been making for 15 years – Salsa Romesco, with a surprising ingredient: almonds!
If you’re a friend to whom I’ve given salsa, it almost certainly was this one.
It’s a spanish recipe from chef Mark Miller’s excellent guide, “The Great Salsa Book.”
The particularly nice qualities of this salsa are its sweetness from red pepper, its relatively smooth, thick consistency (e.g., for dipping chips or as an enchilada sauce), and its easily adjustable heat simply based on the amount of powdered cayenne pepper. I’ve included the original recipe below.
In a moment of farmers’ market enthusiasm, I bought a 25 pound box of tomatoes for $10. It turns out that’s a lot of tomatoes! I oven-roasted about half of these large, wonderfully red tomatoes to make 4 slightly different salsas.
To oven-roast tomatoes, simply cut them and lay them out on a sheet in a 250° F oven for 2-3 hours. I put a bit of salt on on them beforehand. Large tomatoes can be quartered and roma tomatoes, as the original recipe called for, halved.
The roasting removes some of the moisture, setting up for a nice blended salsa of a thick consistency and water doesn’t separate so much as with raw tomato-based salsas. (Of course, those salsas have their place; who could live without pico de gallo?)
I’ve made this Salsa Romesco many, many times (recipe below), spiced just with cayenne. This time I also rehydrated some pasilla and chipotle (meco type) peppers while the tomatoes were roasting, and finely minced one seeded, deveined fresh habanero. This was to make salsa variations with differing hotness and flavors. My pasilla peppers happened to be considerably hotter than the chipotle… many pepper varieties’ hotness is somewhat unpredictable.
Once the tomoatoes are roasted, you can simply blend them in a food processor or blender for sauces and salsas.
After the passive hours of roasting tomatoes and rehydrating peppers, you’re ready to make this salsa; everything is blended, so there’s not much chopping.
There is a bit of work; you will need to remove the skins from red peppers. I suppose removing the skin is optional, but it does two things: (a) it makes the salsa sweeter since the skin imparts a little bitterness, and (b) it keeps the skins (mostly) out of the resulting salsa, so it doesn’t get stuck between your teeth.
For me, the easiest way to roast and peel bell peppers has been to place them on a foil-lined sheet very near the heat in the broiler, watching them carefully and rotating them until all sides are blackened as shown. Place the roasted peppers in a plastic bag or covered bowl for a while to steam them (helping the skin to separate), and then peel them (as best you can), remove core and seeds, and rinse the pepper.
Here’s Mark Miller’s recipe (my comments in parentheses… I approximately tripled this in quantity):
- 10 Roma tomatoes, oven-roasted
- 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
- 2 teaspoons cayenne powder (careful! … to taste, make separate salsas for different palates)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purée.
Variation: Add 1 anchovy filet to the food processor.
Note: This is a classic Spanish salsa.
Serving suggestions: A versatile salsa, good with tortilla chips or as a dip for vegetables; with grilled meats fish or eggs; or as a soup garnish.
Yield: About 1 3/4 cups
Heat: 5-6 (of 10, it solely depends on how much cayenne powder you add, it’s even nice and sweet with almost no cayenne… but I usually make it spicy.)
I made 4 variations, canning some of each for wintertime and keeping some fresh in the refrigerator (for days, at least), shown left to right in the top photo:
- Hot pasilla and red pepper
- Medium chipotle and red pepper
- Hot habanero-garlic and red pepper
- Mild sweet red pepper
I shared them with friends and all were popular but my favorites were the hot pasilla and the hot (fresh) habanero and garlic.
As I said, this salsa is my favorite to make myself and is a great foundation for creativity.
It takes a few hours, but most of that is not active time; it’s just waiting. Maybe make a nice meal in the mean time, while the kitchen has the pleasant smell of roasted tomato. :)