Food: Romesco sauce with grilled vegetables is a thing of beauty

Romesco sauce makes a great dip for grilled summer vegetables. (Renee Kohlman) Saskatoon

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This is the time of year when I want to eat all of the vegetables.

Soon everything will be in season and looking super gorgeous. Tomatoes! Peppers! Eggplant! Zucchini! Corn! And so on and so forth.

Grilled vegetables are the cat’s pyjamas. Dipped into a robust, gorgeous sauce such as Romesco, they are even better. You know how there are always songs of the summer? Something poppy and dancy, and most likely sung by someone who wasn’t alive when I was bopping to Wham! on my Sony Walkman. Well, if there was a sauce of the summer, Romesco would be it. So pretty and tasty, versatile and simple, the only thing better would be a trip to Spain, but I can’t give you that. I can only share this sauce recipe, and hope you love it as much as I do.

The Spaniards did a beautiful thing when they created Romesco. Fishermen in northern Tarragona concocted this sauce as an accompaniment to fish, and as a showcase for simplicity at its finest, it’s essentially made from roasted red peppers and tomatoes, toasted nuts, stale bread and olive oil.

Toss Romesco with hot pasta, serve it alongside grilled meats, and yes, fish. Slather it on sandwiches, stir it into fish stews, and my favourite — use it as a dip for grilled vegetables. You can use peppers exclusively when making Romesco, but I switched things up a bit and made my sauce more tomato-centric. I roasted them, along with a couple of red peppers and some garlic at 375F for 90 minutes.

The slow roasting process produced lovely caramelized goodness, and the house smelled heavenly. The roasted vegetables and garlic go into the food processor along with toasted bread, almonds, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika and sea salt. Olive oil is poured in while the motor is running and a lovely emulsion occurs. The toughest part of this sauce is waiting for the tomatoes and peppers to roast, but the wait is well worth it.

I like to make Romesco one day in advance of serving, just so all of the flavours have a chance to get to know one another.

Gather your favourite fresh vegetables from your garden or market. Toss them in a bit of olive oil and grill them until tender. Serve on a platter with the Romesco sauce and plenty of wine. Give a toast to the farmers, the Spaniards and the talented cook who served you a platter of glorious summer food.


Romesco Sauce with Grilled Vegetables


2 large ripe tomatoes, cored

2 large red bell peppers

2 Tbsp plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

5 large cloves garlic

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds

1 1-inch slice crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to 375F. In a shallow baking dish, add the tomatoes, whole bell peppers and garlic cloves. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil and place in oven. Roast for 90 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the garlic once it is golden brown.

2. When tomatoes and peppers are well roasted and caramelized — some blackened bits are okay — remove from the oven and let cool. When easy to handle, peel away and discard skins and seeds. Add peeled veg to the food processor.

3. Meanwhile, place bread cubes and almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Nuts should be fragrant and bread lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let cool. Place in the food processor.

4. Add red wine vinegar, smoked paprika and sea salt to the food processor. With the motor running, pour in 1/3 cup olive oil and process until smooth, yet with some coarse bits of nuts remaining. Adjust the seasonings with more salt, vinegar and smoked paprika if necessary. Place in a serving bowl and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Makes about two and a half cups. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. Serve with grilled vegetables.



●      Substitute all peppers for the tomatoes, or use yellow or orange peppers and tomatoes, or all tomatoes.

●      Substitute sherry vinegar for the red wine vinegar.

●      Substitute skinned hazelnuts for the almonds.

●      Substitute dried ancho chili for the smoked paprika.


Grilled Vegetables


2 large bell peppers, each half cut into thirds

3 medium portobello mushrooms

1 large eggplant, sliced into half-inch-thick slices

1 bunch asparagus or 2 medium zucchini, sliced

1 bunch scallions

12 baby potatoes, boiled but still firm

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper


Working in batches, toss each vegetable in a shallow bowl with some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on a preheated grill, and cook until tender, flipping over occasionally.  Serve on a platter with Romesco sauce.  Serves 4-6.