I resolve to cook more in 2015.
I know that sounds absurd, since you are reading my column all about cooking, but hear me out.
I want to cook more, better, and more deeply in 2015. I want to eat real, whole, lovingly prepared food, even when I’m tired. Even when I’ve been in meetings and on airplanes all day long and all I want to do is order dumplings and eat them in bed.
I want to shop locally for fresh ingredients in small quantities, and cook them within a couple of days. Then I want to shop again.
I want to cook, serve, and eat food that is utterly delicious in its simpleness. I want to be inspired by the seasons, not by food or diet fads.
And I want to do it every day.
This is not always easy (see aforementioned meetings/airplanes/dumplings scenario), but I still want to try. So I’m going to start with sauce.
Building a meal around a sauce might seem counterintuitive (most people build meals around proteins), but it really helps me to plan meals better. Take, say, peanut sauce. If I make peanut sauce in the beginning of the week, I can make at least two or three meals with it. I can serve it with spring rolls and salad one night, then toss it with grilled chicken and broccoli and serve it over rice noodles. If I’m lucky enough to have more left, I can spoon it over grilled salmon and sauteed kale and serve it with brown rice.
Romesco sauce is a similarly versatile sauce. It hails from Catalonia, Spain, and is often served with grilled bread. Here I’ve tailored it to my tastes, using sweet-hot cherry peppers in place of the traditional roasted whole red bell peppers. They give the sauce a pleasant but gentle kick of spice.
I’ve also omitted the sometimes-called-for bread or bread crumbs, which I think make the sauce taste starchy. It’s just peppers, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, almonds, good extra-virgin olive oil, pepper, and salt.
The sauce comes together in just a few minutes. An immersion blender makes the process easier (P.S. If you have a small kitchen, an immersion blender is a must-have appliance. It can do the work of several larger appliances, and it’s small enough to be stored in a drawer), but a regular blender or food processor will also do the trick.
Once the sauce is pureed, it will keep in a jar for up to a week, but I highly doubt you’ll be able to wait that long to start using it.
For dinner tonight, my plan is to grill some sausages, slice them up, cover them in romesco and Parm, and pop them under the broiler. Tomorrow, the leftover sauce will be my base for shakshuka for lunch, and then I’ll toss some with roasted cauliflower to have with dinner.
Meanwhile, for lunch today, I spooned a little over a bit of ricotta and ate it with some seed crackers.
The romesco was garlicky, a little bit sweet, and just a touch on the spicy side. The creamy ricotta proved the perfect balancing addition, and the nutty crackers played nicely with the bits of almond in the sauce.
So what about you? What are your cooking resolutions for this year? Whatever they are, I invite and encourage you to get your sauce on.
1 16-ounce jar cherry peppers packed in vinegar (I love the kind from Trader Joe’s) $3
1 15-ounce jar diced tomatoes (preferably the fire-roasted variety) $1.50
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped pantry
½ cup sliced or slivered almonds $1.50
1 handful fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley, chopped $1 for a bunch
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil pantry
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper pantry
Salt to taste pantry
Estimated total cost of ingredients: $7
Drain the cherry peppers, but reserve about 1/8 cup of their vinegar.
Combine the cherry peppers, the reserved vinegar, and all remaining ingredients except for the salt in a pot over medium heat and stir well.
Cook for 5-10 minutes, just to gently mellow out the garlic.
Puree using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender until desired consistency is reached (I like it slightly chunky).
Season with salt to taste.
Use the sauce immediately or store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Recipe serves 6.