Sometimes when you're in the middle of blizzard #4 (roses are red, violets are blue, winter storm Neptune I'm talking 'bout you), it's time to play a little make believe. Soups, and stews, and casseroles are hearty and wintry and all that but they are also a reminder of the upcoming date you have with your shovel. Hence I figured Valentine's Day was the perfect opportunity for a little culinary 'staycation' of Spanish pinchos. Although optimally enjoyed al fresco at a European cafe with water views while seated in one of those charming French bistro chairs, our kitchen table made a fine substitute. Tip: put your spread on a tray and you've instantly got an occasion.
Ever since Tripp visited San Sebastian he's been bringing home these little silvery anchovies (boquerones in Spanish). At first I was skeptical but my oh my are they good. Bright and vinegary they're the perfect foil to smoky, nutty romesco. And anything you get to assemble with little utensils gets extra points in my book. Anchovies aren't your thing? Leave 'em off. This is a judgement free zone and even though I'm a fan I'll be the first to say they aren't necessary. The romesco is splendid all on its own. And when you tire of eating it on toast (or with a spoon) it's happy to do its thing on fish, meats, in a grilled cheese, on roasted or grilled veggies, on pasta - you name it.
The garlic probably interferes with this qualifying as a romantic Valentine's Day dish but whatves. It's red and involves smoke and fire so I'm pretty sure that counts for something.
Anchovy Toasts + Romesco
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 cup unsalted raw almonds
- 3 red bell peppers (if you don't want to roast your own peppers you can substitute jarred, just be sure to drain them first)
- 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- Roast peppers - if you have a gas stove you can roast the peppers right in your kitchen by placing them directly on the stovetop over a medium to high flame, one pepper per burner. Using metal tongs, turn frequently so peppers get nicely blackened and charred all around. The skin will sizzle and you'll see little sparks as it burns but don't worry the whole pepper won't catch fire. Continue until peppers are softened and blackened all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and place inside a paper bag. Seal the bag by folding the top over and let peppers sit for 10-15 minutes. This step makes the skin easier to remove. Once cool, use your hands to massage the skin off the peppers. It's okay if you don't get every bit. The blackened bits equal flavor! Cut off the end of each pepper with the stem and discard. Roughly chop peppers.
- Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they become slightly browned and fragrant, about 4-6 minutes; let cool. Be careful not to burn otherwise you'll get bitter flavors in your romesco.
- Place almonds in a food processor and grind until very fine, about 1 minute.
- Add chopped peppers, sherry vinegar, garlic, paprika, and salt and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Sauce will be thick.
- With motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.
- Sauce is ready to serve immediately but for best results make a few hours in advance to allow flavors to develop.
- Romesco will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week or several months in the freezer.
- 1/4 lb. white anchovies cured in vinegar, at room temperature (I have not seen these at regular grocery stores but they can be found in speciality stores carrying Spanish or Italian products)
- 1 baguette, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves
- Romesco sauce, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 325
- Slice baguette into 1/2 inch rounds and place on cookie sheet
- Toast baguette slices until lightly browned and just firm, about 10 minutes
- Cut garlic cloves in half and rub each toast with raw garlic
- To serve slather each toast with romesco and top with anchovies