Grilled Asparagus with Manchego Cheese and Romesco Sauce
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
This is a great tapas or starter for any dinner party. The romesco sauce can be made well in advance and the asparagus can be cooked very quickly in a hot frying pan, grill or barbecue. You can serve it as an individual dish or as a platter for everyone to help themselves. This dish is also a very healthy option for mid-week dinner with a piece of grilled fish. Romesco sauce is a classic Spanish red pepper and almond sauce, very similar to pesto which originated in the city of Tarragona. Romesco sauce works really well as a dip, with any type of fish or chicken dish or as a flavouring ingredient to soups, sauces or dressings. Romesco sauce is traditionally served with Calçots, a young tender spring onion which is barbecued and eaten whole, once dipped in plenty of romesco sauce.
24 fresh green asparagus
50g manchego cheese
Few toasted marcona almonds to garnish
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the romesco sauce:
2 whole red peppers, core and seeds removed, cut into halves
2 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 piece of stale bread, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
12 toasted marcona almonds
12 whole hazelnuts, skin off
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
½ tsp of cumin seeds
½ tsp of smoked paprika dulce
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat your oven grill. Place the peppers halves, skin side up on a tray, drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil and place under the grill, until the skins are completely black all round. Remove from the grill, cover with a kitchen cloth or aluminium foil and allow the cooked peppers to rest and steam for 10 minutes. After this time, you will be able to peel them very easily. Cut the peppers into long strips and chop them into small pieces.
To make the romesco sauce, heat gently in a small frying pan the cumin seeds to release their oil, it takes about one minute. Pound the seeds in a pestle and mortar, until you obtain a fine powder. In a food processor or blender, add the roasted peppers, tomatoes, bread, garlic, almonds, hazelnuts, cumin, smoked paprika, the olive oil and sherry vinegar and blend lightly until you have a chunky paste with the consistency of a pesto. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Romesco sauce will taste better if you make it the day before for the flavours to blend.
For the asparagus, cook them in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain into ice water.
Before serving, drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and cook them on a hot frying pan, grill or barbecue until nicely charred. It takes about 2 minutes each side. Season with salt and serve on a bed of romesco sauce, topped with some crushed almonds, manchego cheese shavings and a drizzle of olive oil.