I was formally introduced to the robust food and culture of Spain back in 1990.  My family had the wonderful pleasure of hosting a Spanish exchange student from my school.  Joel Vicente Juan Botella moved into our house after the winter holidays.  He came to us at my request because I had found out that he was unhappy at his first host family’s house from my Spanish teacher.  Joel brought much joy to our household and inspired my mother to start studying the Spanish language.  I have vivid memories of him smoking outside by our woodpile and teaching my mother how to make Spanish omelets (after retrieving the recipe from his mother via phone).  He also told us of such other delicacies such as paella, fideos (pasta dish), and the amazing seafood that he was privy to compliments of the Mediterranean coast.  I recall that he was also the one that introduced us to the art of dipping crusty bread into extra virgin olive oil. 

My mother, grandmother, and I eventually accompanied Joel back to Spain at the end of the school year for an unforgettable two- week trip.  I honestly do not remember if I ate Romesco Sauce while in Spain.  I may have and not know about it.  Romesco originates in the Catalan area of Spain and is somewhat similar to a pesto and can be used as such.  It uses ingredients from or imported to Spain from the surrounding areas, including African influences.  This is not entirely and authentic Romesco as in the tradition of cooking with what I had on hand, some substitutions were made.

I served on top of a bed of arugula, spinach, and roasted asparagus.  It sort of melted on top of the hot and smoky tasting asparagus to make a thick dressing of sorts.

Romesco Sauce

1 slice toasted whole grain bread
½ c. roasted almonds (or any nut you have would do nicely)
½ pint cherry tomatoes
1 roasted red bell pepper
4 garlic cloves
5-6 big basil leaves (or a small handful of parsley)
1/8 c. balsamic vinegar
1/8 c. H20
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. smoked paprika
approx. ½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Toast bread and cool.  Put all ingredients (except for olive oil) in food processor and grind until smooth.  With the motor running, pour the oil in and process until of a creamy salad dressing consistency.  You can use a bit of warm H20 to thin it out if you’d like.