8.03.2019

Culinary Architecture

Romesco. No, it isn’t the style of church you saw in that small town in Provence. It is a sauce from Catalonia, Spain, made by fishermen to be eaten with fish. It was the inspiration for today’s post.


Romesco is a very pungent sauce of roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, bread, nuts, olive oil, and vinegar that pairs perfectly with grilled fish.

However, I planned to serve a grilled herbed fish (thanks to my sister-in-law, Becky, for the marinade recipe!) with a 2016 Commanderie de Peyrassol rosé, and the intensity of Romesco gave me pause. For more thoughts on the wine, head over the Provence WineZine.

Like any good architect, I started redesigning the sauce to make it work with my recipe. Of course the garlic went out the window...

The olive oil was just right. The perfect foundation on which to build my flavor profile.

Siding with tradition, I liked the use of bell peppers and tomatoes, but opted to roast them both (not just the pepper) to get a hint of smoky flavor.

The idea of nuts appealed but I didn’t want my version to have the traditional gritty feeling of ground almonds. So I ransacked the fridge and cupboards where I came upon a pistacchio paste brought back from Sicily.

While the paste was sweetened to be used in desserts, I somehow felt a little sugar might be nice. A smooth almond or hazelnut butter would work, too.

I also wanted some piquancy, but not over the top - no cayenne, no Hatch chile — so I dipped below the equator for some puréed ají amarillo... a bit of heat with nice flavor.

Again, to achieve the texture I desired, I decided to omit the bread. I think it makes the Romesco too thick for what I envisioned.

Finally, I did think it needed some zing — an architectural ornament, if you will— but nothing as intense as Sherry vinegar. A squeeze of lime is exactly what it needed.

So redesigned and rebuilt, I present you with grilled Herbed Chilean Sea Bass with Romesco-esque. Isn’t culinary architecture fun?

~ David

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, Romesco-esque

1 large red bell pepper
3 large Roma tomatoes
1 tablespoon ají amarillo purée (or 1 teaspoon hot paprika)
1 tablespoon pistacchio paste, or other nut paste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/4 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sprigs fresh basil
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon culinary lavender buds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds Chilean sea bass, 1-inch thick, in four pieces

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


Romesco-esque: heat your grill to high. Blacken the pepper on all sides. When fully black, remove from the grill and place in a paper bag. Close and let pepper steam for 10 minutes. While pepper is steaming, grill the tomatoes on all sides until blackened and split.

Cut tomatoes in half and remove the blackened skin and any seeds. Place tomato pieces in a blender. Remove pepper from the bag, then peel or scrape off blackened skin, remove ribs and seeds. Place pepper in the blender.

Add ají amarillo, nut paste, olive oil, lime, and salt. Purée until smooth and light in color, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

The fish: trim the fish into equal 6-ounce portions and place in a shallow baking dish. Finely chop the basil, thyme, and lavender buds together and place in a small bowl. Add the salt, pepper, and olive oil. Spoon over the fish, turn to coat, and marinate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium-high - about 400°F/200°C. When hot, oil the grates then grill fish for 4 minutes on the first side and three minutes on the flip side. (You will see the fish becoming opaque as it cooks.)

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of the sauce onto the plates, then top with fish and garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 4.



40 comments:

  1. It's been a long time since I've had a Romesco sauce and I had remembered incorrectly what exactly it is. Thanks for the refresher, but I am even more interested in your variation on this theme! I know the Commanderie de Peyrassol rosé must have gone quite nicely with it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a lovely pairing, Susan - and the changes to the Romesco worked beautifully!

      Delete
  2. I make Romesco sauce often and I am intrigued by your recipe . The bass looks great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Gerlinde - I love that it is almost impossible to overcook Chilean sea Bass!

      Delete
  3. How delightful to meet a culinary architect on a Sunday morning especially since I live on grilled fish and to find my recipe for Romesco sauce would probably lead to a frustrated cook ! Well, further changes to the above might have to be made re nut pastes and chilli additions, but . . . ! Am largely a white wine drinker but remember days of reaching for rose in Provence . . . I know we make some good ones !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to know more about rosé wines in Australia, Eha - I imagine the good ones stay there!

      Delete
  4. Yes ! I will definitely skip the bread. Pistacchio paste ? Now I am already hooked ! Bravo for this one !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Davorka - I imagine it would be really good with almond butter, too.

      Delete
  5. Yum! I adore romesco sauce, and roasting the tomatoes and peppers was a master stroke. Although I'm usually a bit skeptical of culinary "innovations" when the results sound this good, I'm all for it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like innovations when they are for a purpose, Frank - and, in this case, to match a texture and sweetness.

      Delete
  6. Now that's one impressive adaptation on a traditional Romesco! Ají amarillo - yes please!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are the one who introduced me to ají amarillo, John - and I am forever grateful.

      Delete
  7. David, your romesco sauce looks wonderful, especially with that perfectly grilled fish! Love the changes you've made to the sauce and such fantastic flavor. Between the pistachio paste,ají amarillo purée, and lavender, your pantry must be a real dreamland!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love my pantry, Kelly! Sometimes Mark complains that we have no real food - only condiments. But just look what I can make with them!

      Delete
  8. Wow! This could be one of my favourites (although the list is long).

    ReplyDelete
  9. David, I just got home from Spain and I'm so inspired by this recipe. I make my own homemade pistachio paste and it's because of your that I already have ají amarillo purée in my fridge. I'm all set and look forward to this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love being a good influence on cooks,Valentina - isn't ají amarillo amazing?

      Delete
  10. Dear David, I remember making Romesco sauce only once (for the Cottage Cooking Club) - a rather nice recipe from Mr. Whittingstall himself. Your version of this lovely Romesco-esque sauce with pistachio paste looks rather delicious - I am intrigued by your choice of ingredients in this flavorful dish!
    Hope your August is going well, my friend!
    Liebe Grüße aus dem sonnigen Bonn,
    Andrea

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had forgotten that Hugh had done a romesco. I am always willing to but odd ingredients together for some culinary fun!

      Delete
  11. Romesco sauce is wonderful! We've been making it a lot this summer -- playing with different recipes. Love it with scallops, in particular. It's also really nice with veggies. Anyway, your version looks excellent. Fun post -- thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I need to try it with scallops, John - that sounds amazing!

      Delete
  12. When I see your photo of Romesco sauce, I am tempted to eat it on its own, like a bowl of soup! Might be too rich like that,but serving it on a piece of fish or chicken- WOW!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a bit rich, but it is so good Fran! I am tempted, like you, to eat it by the spoonful!

      Delete
  13. David, I love Romesco and have put it on just about everything you can think of since I discovered it, but I have yet to put it on fish, the thing that started it all. Looks great! Every time I make it, I make a double batch so I'll always have some in the freezer. I could just eat it with a spoon. Shoot, I'd even eat cardboard if it had a slathering of good garlic-free Romesco!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like your idea of a double batch, Jean - will definitely do that for the next time!

      Delete
  14. I do love a fishy dish david. This looks fabulous. That sauce sounds amazing! Yum is all i can say. Cheers sherry

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just caught the tail end of Jacques Pepin doing olives and sun-dried tomatoes on cod. Pretty different from yours but love that you've both done something different from the common (sometimes uber) simple fish dishes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh - that sounds good, too. I really like Jacques!

      Delete
  16. I must try and find some of this pistachio paste, and your sauce look so good

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I said, Emma - any nut paste will do fine! And a little sugar in there was nice.

      Delete
  17. With all your creative remodeling I think you should call it Davesco sauce. GREG

    ReplyDelete
  18. I learned how to make Romesco sauce at a cooking class in Barcelona. Didn't know if I'd like it, but I did! Would be wonderful with the sea bass as you've done! Lovely recipe, David!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so glad you like romesco sauce - such a wonderful combination!

      Delete
  19. I had forgotten about Romesco sauce, and I found your "architecture" intriguing. I may just work it into my next week's plan. Always a pleasure to see what you do with food and wine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Merci, Centime! I am so glad you enjoy the pairings!

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.