This post was created in partnership with Bremner Farms.
One word – romesco. Have you tried it? I’m not saying you should drop everything and make it as soon as possible, but I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, either. It is so good!
Let’s back up for a second. Once in a while, I come across a sauce recipe that I find to be completely life-changing, or, to be a bit less dramatic – able to improve almost every meal I make in my kitchen. This happened with tahini sauce and all its varieties, and now I’m all about the fiery orange sauce by the name of romesco.
Romesco originates from Spain, where it’s commonly made with almonds, roasted peppers, garlic, tomatoes and red wine vinegar, and most often eaten with seafood. It’s an incredibly savory mixture, full of garlicky, spicy and umami flavors, and I have a hard time holding back from slathering it on everything I eat. There are a lot of romesco recipes out there, each with its own subtleties and additions. I went through many of them, selecting all the elements and techniques I like, and composing my own ideal version. I used sprouted raw almonds for my romesco, as I got a batch of special, truly raw almonds from Bremner Farms. Since sprouting or germinating helps remove phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors from nuts/seeds/legumes, which in turn increases digestibility and availability of their vitamins and minerals, this romesco is extra nutritious and very easy on the stomach. If you have no access to sproutable almonds, however, roasted ones can be used here as well.
One of the many dishes I recently built around romesco is this pasta with smoked paprika cauliflower and blistered summer tomatoes. It’s a great weeknight meal that can be eaten as a salad the next day, providing you have leftovers. It’s delicious and nourishing, and can be easily tailored to use any seasonal produce you have on hand.
Since today’s dish depends quite a bit on the amazing flavor of almonds, I’m going to use it as an opportunity to talk about the subject of raw almonds, specifically one bewildering fact about them. That fact is, if you live in the U.S., the raw almonds you buy in the stores are likely not raw, even if labeled as such. Meaning, if you try to sprout a store-bought ‘raw’ almond, it will not sprout, although any raw nut is supposed to. The story here is quite typical – there was a small salmonella outbreak at a California almond plant in the early 2000s, which led to the requirement for all California-grown almonds to be ‘sterilized’ – either through steam pasteurization, irradiation, or treatment with propylene oxide, a carcinogen. Yet there is absolutely no requirement for the now processed almonds to be labeled as pasteurized or chemically treated, and no ban on calling them raw. Since this is not a widely known fact, that ‘raw’ labeling still prevails on processed almonds that have not been roasted and completely misleads consumers. Pretty mind boggling, if you ask me. So much of this type of thing is happening in our food system at all times, where we are told we are getting A, while actually getting B. Of course, in today’s world, it’s difficult to be in the know about everything, and we have to pick our battles, but it’s always good to have some of those veils lifted.
But it’s not all grim news here today – the good news is, truly raw almonds do still exist, and not only in Italy and Spain, but also in our own California. Unpasteurized California almonds, by law, can be purchased directly from the farm that grows them, and Bremner Farms is one of the growers carrying out the noble mission of producing truly raw almonds. Bremner is a family-owned operation, growing certified organic, raw and sproutable almonds in their California orchards since the 1950s. They never treat their almonds with steam or chemicals, which leads to some very delicious nuts. The wonderful people at Bremner sent me a 5 lb bag of their almonds, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them in all kinds of dishes like this romesco pasta, salads and desserts. Just yesterday, I used them to make almond milk, which is always a good gauge for the freshness of almonds, and it was hands down the best almond milk I’ve ever tasted. I’m very excited to have discovered this source of top-notch, delicious almonds, and feel very happy to be supporting the growers and their cause. Bremner Farms raw almonds can be purchased directly from their website, here, try them out for yourself :)
- 1 small or ½ large cauliflower - chopped into small florets
- sea salt - to taste
- freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- 2 tablespoons melted neutral coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- about 8 oz baby spinach
- 10 oz whole wheat pasta (I used sprouted strozzapreti)
- about ½ portion romesco (recipe below)
- 1 cup soaked/sprouted raw almonds (instructions below) or roasted almonds
- fresh parsley - minced (optional)
- handful fresh basil leaves - torn (optional)
- 1 large or 2 small red bell peppers - seeded and cut into large chunks
- 2 medium tomatoes - cut in half
- 3 tablespoons olive oil - divided
- sea salt - to taste
- freshly ground black pepper - to taste
- ½ cup soaked/sprouted raw almonds (instructions below) or roasted almonds
- 1 chili pepper - seeded and sliced
- 1 garlic head - separated into cloves and sliced
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- about 2 tablespoons chopped parsley (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- Place cauliflower in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, toss to coat. Spread on a parchment paper-covered baking tray and roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender, stirring at half time. Remove from the oven, sprinkle smoked paprika over the florets and toss to coat. Set aside.
- To blister the tomatoes, increase the oven temperature to 450° F (230° C). Toss cherry tomatoes with ½ tablespoon oil, salt and pepper in a baking dish and cook for about 20 minutes, until and blistered and bursting. Stir at halftime. Set aside.
- Boil water for pasta. Warm the remaining ½ tablespoon oil in a medium pan over medium heat, add spinach and toss until just wilted.
- Cook pasta according to instructions on the package. Drain, rinse briefly with cold water and place back into the same pot. Add ½ portion romesco and toss to combine.
- Add roasted cauliflower, blistered tomatoes, wilted spinach and almonds, toss to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if needed.
- Add herbs, if using, and serve right away alongside more romesco, if desired.
- Preheat oven to 425° F (218° C).
- Line a shallow baking dish with parchment paper. Place bell pepper chunks and tomato halves into the dish, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil and stir to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, tomatoes cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, or until peppers are completely cooked through and soft.
- Meanwhile, drain and rinse almonds.
- Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chili and saute for about 2-3 minutes, until soft and golden in places. Remove into a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the chili oil in the pan, and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add garlic slices and a pinch of salt to the pan, saute for 3-4 minutes, until garlic is golden. Remove from heat.
- Remove skins from the roasted tomato halves (it should come right off). Combine bell pepper, tomatoes and their juices, chili, almonds, garlic with all the oil, red wine vinegar and smoked paprika, if using, in a food processor. Pulse until the desired texture is achieved - you can make romesco smooth or chunky, depending on your preference.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and parsley, if using. Pulse to combine. Taste for salt and pepper, adjust if needed. Keep airtight and refrigerated for up to 1 week.
- Place the almonds in the glass jar with a large pinch of sea salt and enough filtered water to completely submerge them. Cover with a sprouting screen/cheesecloth and soak for a minimum of 8 hours. Rinse the nuts and repeat, soaking for another 8 hours. Drain the water and rinse again until the water runs clean.
- Place a strainer inside a small bowl. Flip the jar upside down into the strainer and place in a warm spot. Every 4 hours, rinse the almonds and then place the jar back in the strainer. Repeat this step again over the next 24-48 hours. It's fine to let the almonds soak for up to 8 hours while sleeping, but during waking hours change the water out every 4 hours. If you don't rinse the almonds, this can lead to mildew.
- Within that 24-48 hour period, you should start to see a tail erupt, however oftentimes it does not penetrate through the skin. This is where people think the process has failed. In a perfect world, the almond meat will swell up and the skin with retract revealing the tail. If you want to see the tail, pull back the skin to reveal it. On some occasions, the tail doesn't erupt through the meat at all - slice the almond in half lengthwise to see it.
This post was created in partnership with Bremner Farms, with all opinions being genuine and our own. Thank you for considering the sponsors that help keep Golubka Kitchen going.