“I think calçots are overrated” a Catalan friend told me the other day, sitting on high chairs, surrounded by wine bottles, barrels and champagne in an old bodega. Before he could finish his sentence I jumped at him, starting to describe everything I like about the ritual of the calçotada (see my last post), and finally added that you dip the calçots in romesco sauce which tastes just amazing. “But with romesco EVERYTHING is delicious” was his answer. Right. Exactly. We don’t think pasta is overrated just because it doesn’t taste very well on its own. You wouldn’t eat a calçot without romesco, so it doesn’t make much sense to separate one from the other. Or yes, it actually does, but only the other way round: it’s totally true, you shouldn’t reserve the romesco for calçots, but also use it to boost grilled vegetables, on bread (for example the flourless seed and nut bread below), as a dip, and so on …because… everything tastes great with romesco salsa!
• 4 Tomatoes
• 1/2 cup hazelnuts
• 1/2 cup almonds
• 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
• 2 slices of bread (white or whole wheat, may be fresh or old)
• sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 2 sprigs of fresh or dried thyme (optional)
• 2-3 ñoras (dried red peppers), soaked over night
• 1 cup virgin olive oil
• 1/2 garlic head + 1 clove
Preheat the oven to 250ºC (480ºF). Place the tomatoes, the bread, the garlic head (unpeeled), almonds and hazelnuts on an oven tray. Place it in the upper part of the oven. After 10 minutes, turn the bread and move the hazelnuts and almonds. After 5 more minutes check if the hazelnuts are getting burnt. You might have to remove the hazelnuts, almonds and bread before the tomatoes and the garlic. Leave the tomatoes and garlic for 10 more minutes, until the tomato skin bursts at some places and starts to get burned. Let everything cool until you can handle it. Meanwhile scrape the flesh off the soaked ñoras. They don’t have a lot of flesh, so make an effort to get it all. Put the flesh into a food processor (you might also use an immersion blender). Peel the skin off the tomatoes and add them to the ñora flesh. Add all the other ingredients and blend until smooth. That’s it!
This bread made of nuts and seeds (or only seeds if you prefer) is just impressive. It has a tender and crunchy texture at the same time and holds together absolutely perfectly. Additionally, it permits you to get creative or to adjust to what you have at home, as you can use all types of seeds, nuts and even some dry fruits and vary the proportions. Sebastián says it’s hamster food, but everybody else loves it. Many people are making this healthy gluten free bread, see here and here for example. In my last version I added a grated carrot which looked beautiful and tasted great.
You need one freaky ingredient you might not have heard of before to make the recipe work: Psyllium seed husks powder. It’s what holds everything together and gives it this tender texture. Apart from obtaining the psyllium seeds husk, everything is ridiculously easy. No yeast, so no rising times, no kneading and flexibility regarding the ingredients. I found the psyllium at the fourth health store I went to. They had the whole seed husks only, but I ground them and it worked perfectly. Psyllium seed husks are extremely fibrous, they bind water and form a gelatinous texture, similar to wallpaper paste. It’s also used to improve digestion. If you don’t find it at the store, and are not as impatient as I am, you can also order them online. They are not very expensive, especially considering that you’ll need very little of it to make the bread.
• 3 tablespoons of psylliums husk powder
• 1 1/2 cups of water
• 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
• 2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil
• 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/4 cup sesame
• 1/2 cup hazelnuts
• 1/2 cup almonds
• 1/2 cup flax brown flax seeds
• 1/2 cup golden flax seeds
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 1 grated carrot
In a big bowl combine psyllium husk and water. Set aside to gel for 5 minutes. It should quickly become very thick. Meanwhile put all the seeds and nuts into the food processor and pulse just a few times, you want to chop them very coarsely. If you don’t have a food processor, no problem, chop them with a knife. Add the nuts and seeds as well as the oil and the salt to the psyllium and use your hands to combine everything. Oil a muffin tray or a loaf pan and press the “dough” into it. Let sit for 1h, to let the ingredients bind together. Preheat the oven to 180º (350ºF). Bake the loaf for 50min on the lowest rack in the oven, if making large muffins bake for 30min, 20min for mini muffins. Be patient and let it cool down before slicing. Can be frozen and tastes great toasted.