Romesco With Ñoras And Macadamias
“When you’re in Barcelona, be sure to buy ñoras” wrote my online friend Victor sometime last summer. Ñoras being a kind of dried chile pepper that I’d never seen before, and me being a pepper person, of course I followed his instructions. Speaking neither Spanish nor Catalan, a real handicap when in Barcelona, I walked up to a grocery clerk and pronounced only the word ñoras. He led me straight to a huge rack of dried peppers, and I, grateful for the universal language of food, bought two large packages. These ñoras then proceeded to cruise the Spanish coast with us before taking the train to France. While in France they languished in the cupboard for three months because the French don’t really eat anything even mildly spicy. So, luckily for me, the ñoras flew with us from Marseille to Amsterdam to Seattle, where I am now taking a real interest in them.
I Googled for recipes using ñoras and first up were dozens of references to Romesco sauce. Now Romesco is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s made with bread, not something I can eat anymore, and a lot of onions, which I also restrict severely. Ñoras being the traditional main ingredient, however, inspired me to make a low-carb Romesco sauce, and wow, am I ever glad I tried this. If you’re a low-carb or gluten-free eater, this will be a nice addition to your sauce repertoire. If you’re a traditional Spanish cook, please don’t laugh. This is amazingly like the real thing, even though it contains neither bread nor onions. Honest.
This sauce is rich and thick, warm but not at all hot, slightly sweet and tangy. We had it with roasted pork tenderloin with adobo spices and a sprinkle of chives and it was delicious. It would be lovely with roast chicken and if you’re a person who eats potatoes, that would be a dynamite combination too.
In the suitcase with the ñoras was also a bottle of sherry vinegar that we got when we visited a sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera. The sherry vinegar flavor is important here, so get the best one you can find. If you can’t find ñoras, and I’m pretty sure you can’t, (and if you can, please tell me where!), I’d use a mix of peppers. For the recipe given below you could use 3 California chiles, 2 Ancho chiles, and 1 Cascabel chile, for example.
Romesco With Ñoras and Macadamias
10 ñoras (or use pepper mix as above)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
12-14 macadamia nuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2-3 T sherry vinegar
water for thinning sauce
Place whole peppers in a large bowl and cover with very hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Remove peppers from water and shred them with your fingers right into the bowl of the food processor. You want to remove the stems and the seeds, while pulling the rest of the pepper into medium-sized pieces.
Add the nuts, garlic, and 2 T of the sherry vinegar to the peppers in the food processor, and whizz until the peppers are broken up. With the processor running, slowly add water through the feed tube. You may need 1/2 cup or more, but go slowly, adding it almost as if you were making mayonnaise. You’re looking for a thick, creamy sauce, and when you get there, remove the sauce to a bowl and add salt to taste. If the sauce is at all blah, add a little more sherry vinegar, that’s what makes it really pop.
This sauce keeps well in the fridge, and even tastes better the second day, so you might want to make it a day ahead. And buen provecho.