I was inspired to write a recipe for this roasted red pepper dip (a.k.a. romesco sauce) after I came across it a few times during my trip to South Africa. The lodge we stayed at during our safari had a sumptuous lunch spread which always began with a loaf of fresh bread and a few tapas-style dips like crushed olives in olive oil, herbed butter and this romesco sauce.
The dip by itself is vegan and gluten-free. Roasting the peppers and tomatoes adds a subtle smoky-sweet flavor that is balanced with the spice from the cayenne pepper and acid from the white wine vinegar. Almonds form the base that thickens the romesco sauce. White wine vinegar is difficult to find in India; I’ve come across it at stores like Nature’s Basket and the grocery section at Westside (in Mumbai) and the specialty international foods section at Spencer’s (in Kolkata). If you can’t find it, you can replace it with an equal amount of apple cider vinegar (easier to find) or lemon juice.
What I like most about this roasted red pepper dip is its versatility – it tastes great on its own with bread, can be used as a sandwich spread or even an additional dip with hummus, babaghanoush and the likes. The sauce keeps well for three days in the fridge or for weeks in the freezer. I find it easiest to make dips and sauces like this one, pesto, etc. in a batch and freeze them to use quickly whenever I need them.
- 2 red bell peppers, cut in quarters
- 4 tomatoes, cut in quarters
- 12 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled
- 18-20 almonds
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper or more, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 250C.
- Toss the cut red peppers and tomatoes in 1 tbsp olive oil. Place on a baking sheet/foil and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
- At the 15 minute mark, incorporate the almonds and garlic cloves into the mixture in the baking tray. Bake for 5 minutes more.
- Remove from the oven at the 20 minute mark. Peel off the skins from the tomatoes and bell peppers when cool enough to handle.
- In a mixer/food processor, add the bell peppers, tomatoes, almonds, garlic cloves, white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Blend until the paste comes together in a chunky salsa kind of texture. Try to maintain the thicker texture and to not over blend into a thin sauce.