The most memorable romesco I ever had was at Chez Panisse. It was in July of 2009 and Alex and I were on our way to Napa Valley for a wedding. It wasn’t my first time in Northern California, but it was my first time since food had become something that mattered to me. In fact, I was hard at work on my first cookbook, and I had lugged a printout of the manuscript across the country so I could obsessively edit and rewrite on the plane.
One night, we made a special trip to Berkeley for the sole purpose of worshiping at the alter of Alice Waters eating at Chez Panisse. Here is a picture of us. We look so young!
We sat upstairs, in the more casual dining room, and what I remember above all else is the amazing smell of the wood burning oven that drifted through the entire restaurant. I can’t recall exactly what we ordered, but I do remember a fantastic bottle of Oregon pinot noir, and the most perfectly executed plum tart–seriously, it almost brought me to tears.
And the romesco! We ordered shrimp roasted in that wood burning oven, and it was served piled high at one end of wooden plank. At the other end was a mound of smoky, nutty, brick-red romesco. I’d never had anything like it. It felt casual and elegant all at once, and you could tell that every single ingredient was of the absolute highest quality, right down to the grains of salt.
Since then, I’ve learned to make a pretty good romesco at home. This is my favorite version. For this recipe I served it with roasted cauliflower, but feel free to pair it with whatever vegetables you prefer. It also makes a fantastic dip or sandwich spread. Leftovers will keep for about a week in the fridge.
Roasted Cauliflower with Romesco
For the romesco
- 1 small plum tomato
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 2 ounces day old crusty bread about 2 slices, or a fist-sized chunk
- 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
- 1 cup jarred roasted red peppers drained
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
For the cauliflower
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the tomato in half and toss it on a baking sheet with the garlic cloves, bread, and almonds. Roast until the bread and nuts are lightly toasted, 7 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the tomato, garlic, bread, and nuts to a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop.
Add the roasted red peppers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and smoked paprika and pulse until well combined and smooth with just a few chunks. (Romesco can be make up to a week in advance.)
To make the cauliflower, preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut the cauliflower into large florets. Toss them on a baking sheet with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the cauliflower pieces once, until tender and charred.
Serve the cauliflower with the romesco on the side.