My first taste of romesco was not, sadly, in Catalonia. I first encountered this crimson sauce in Walla Walla, Washington at a going away party for a dear foodie friend. I prepped ribs, halibut, and vegetables while my compatriot raced around the kitchen preparing “the sauce”. He toasted almonds, blistered heirloom tomatoes, roasted peppers and garlic, and (after several stops in the Cuisinart) it came out like ruby velvet. We served it with the halibut, where the rich sauce found its perfect match in the clean taste of the firm white fish.
That meal was my inspiration for this recipe. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but Seattle is my first city. I grew up in northeast Wisconsin, deep in the Northwoods, on the banks of the Wolf River. My home lies on Rocky Rips Road, a dead end named for the Class II whitewater that flows not 50 feet from my back porch. The rushing water was my lullaby as an infant, my playground as a child, and when I found my love for food the river continued to provide. Smallmouth bass hid out in the deep holes at the bottoms of rapids. I pulled gallons of crayfish out of the water with a pair of diving goggles and my bare hands (they’re amazing boiled like lobster and served over linguine with a spicy sauce of diced tomatoes, lemon, chiles, and heaps of garlic). My favorite, though, was the trout. It’s delicious, simple to prepare, and environmentally sustainable. You can pick up Idaho-farmed rainbow trout at many grocery stores for $5-$6/lb and they only take a few minutes to prepare. We grilled ours and served it with our very own romesco. We bumped up the sauce’s heat by adding some Pimenton Picante, spicy Spanish smoked paprika, while reducing the prep time by using jarred peppers and canned tomatoes. You wind up with a dish that’s impressive enough for date night and simple enough for any week night. It even gets Delilah’s paw of approval!