This classic Catalan sauce is often thickened with fried bread; here, I have used almonds, which are also traditional and make the recipe gluten-free. Romesco sauce is a wonderful finish for grilled fish and seafood (especially shrimp), poultry and meat (especially pork) and even vegetables. It is actually a slight variation on a sauce served in the province of Tarragona in Catalonia, where it stars in an annual celebration along with a local onion known as the calcot.
Ajar is a delicious Balkan red pepper and eggplant spread. It’s really simple to make, too. Vine Vukicevic, my Pilates coach, introduced me to ajvar. She is from Bosnia and tells me that no house in the former Yugoslavia is ever without this tasty spread. She always looked forward to arriving home after school and enjoying it as a snack, spread on bread and sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese. Once I learned to make ajar, it quickly became a popular appetizer at my house – I spread goat cheese over toast triangles or crackers and top them with a good dollop of this instant, positively ambrosial treat.
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
- 1 eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs/750 g), sliced
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick rounds
- 4 tomatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) thick rounds
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 red finger chile, cut in paper-thin slices
- 1 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp (5 mL) red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp (5 mL) ground dried nora pepper or sweet paprika
- 1 tsp (5 mL) salt
- 1 clove garlic, pureed
- 1/4 cup(60 mL) extra virgin olive oil
- 1. Brush olive oil over eggplant, bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes. Place on preheated barbecue and cook, turning occasionally, until nicely charred. When bell peppers are done, place in a bowl and cover with a plate. Set aside to sweat. When cool, life off the skins, seed and cut into strips, reserving accumulated juices. When the onion is cool, cut the rounds into quarters.
- 2. Dressing: In a small bowl, combine vinegar, nora pepper and salt, stirring until salt is dissolved. Add garlic and reserved juices from roasted peppers. Whisk in oil.
- 3. Arrange vegetables on a platter.Drizzle dressing over top.
- 4. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and finger chile. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
- The vegetables will be done at different times; watch closely and remove them as completed and set aside to cool.
- Nora is a type of pepper that is associated with Catalonia. It has a rich, sweet flavor. If you can't find, sweet paprika (preferably Spanish) works just fine.
- If you want to add a bit of smoky heat to this salad, add 1/8 tsp (0.05 mL) hot smoked paprika to the dressing.
How’s this for cold-weather hospitality? If you are entertaining on a chilly night, start the evening with a welcoming shooter of hot soup. I serve this parsnip soup in espresso or demi-tasse coffee cups before a glass of wine. It makes about 16 shooters.
This is an updated version of classic French pots de crème. You won’t taste the chile, but it adds appealing depth to the flavor of the chocolate. Served with a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is a welcome indulgence.
Dal can be pungent or very tame, and it plays a significant role in Indian cuisine. This mildly spiced version makes a delicious main course over hot cooked rice; it can also be served as a side dish.
If you are looking for the perfect partner to serve with plain-Jane grilled or roasted meat or fish, this Italian version of fried potatoes with peppers is deliciously different. You can use any combination of sweet or even mildly hot peppers (throw in a hot banana pepper for more spice), but I recommend varying the colors for a pretty presentation.
Depending upon the source you consult, this roasted red pepper and walnut dip is Armenian, Arabian, Turkish or Syrian in origin. In any case, it is healthful, delicious and a welcome addition to any mezes platter. I like to serve it with warm pita bread or cucumber slices. If you are not meat-averse, this dip can also be used as a sauce for kebabs.
This recipe hails from northern Thailand. It is a kind of all-purpose sauce: you can use it as a dip for rice crackers or raw vegetables, or as a topping for plain rice or noodles, or stir-fried vegetables. Depending on the chile you use, it can be a bit fiery—that’s to be expected, as it is Thai, after all.
- Grill basket or baking sheet required
- Food processor required
- 5 hot banana peppers
- 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes (about 11⁄2 cups/375 mL) 250 g
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro 30 mL
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 30 mL
- 1 tbsp fish sauce 15 mL
- Preheat barbecue to high or preheat broiler
- 1. Place banana peppers, shallots and garlic in a grill basket on preheated barbecue or arrange on a baking sheet and place under preheated broiler. Grill or broil, turning occasionally to ensure even cooking, until shallots and garlic are blackened and pepper skin is blistered, about 8 minutes for garlic and shallots, and 10 minutes for peppers.
- 2. Transfer peppers to a bowl, cover with a plate and let cool enough to handle. Remove stems and lift off skins. Transfer peppers along with accumulated juices to food processor fitted with the metal blade.
- 3. Add shallots and garlic and pulse until chopped and well combined, 5 or 6 times. Add tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and fish sauce and pulse until chopped and well combined, about 5 times. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl and let stand at room temperature until the flavors are melded, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Makes about 2 cups (500 mL)
- You want a relatively large and not-too-hot chile for this salsa—that is the best substitute for the prik num chile that would likely be used in this recipe