Leeks Romesco with Crumbled Garrotxa Cheese

Inspired by a traditional Catalan dish that pairs tangy romesco sauce with a sweet Spanish green onion, this salad highlights the mildly earthy flavor of Garrotxa, a semisoft Catalan goat's-milk cheese.

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  • Servings: 4 to 6

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  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more olive oil for brushing
  • 1/4 cup blanched whole unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup cubed firm-textured white bread without crusts (1/4 inch)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 plum tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Salt and cayenne pepper
  • 6 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 4 ounces crumbled Garrotxa or other tangy, semi-aged, goat's-milk cheese (1 cup)
  • Crusty sourdough bread, for serving

How to make this recipe

  1. Lightly brush the bell pepper with olive oil and roast it directly over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning frequently, until charred all over. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 15 minutes. Peel, core and seed the pepper and cut it into thick strips.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly, then coarsely chop.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the skillet. Add the bread cubes and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Heat another tablespoon of the olive oil in the skillet. Add the bell pepper strips and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly golden and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer to a large mortar or food processor and let cool.

  4. Add the fried almonds to the bell pepper mixture and using a pestle, pound to a coarse paste, or pulse in the processor. Add the toasted bread cubes and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then pound and stir, or pulse, until the sauce is emulsified. Gradually add 1/4 cup of olive oil, stirring and pounding, or pulsing, until emulsified. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the sherry vinegar and season with salt and cayenne.

  5. In a large deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil until shimmering. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and barely softened, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar, season with salt and cayenne and bring to a boil. Cover the leeks and cook over moderate heat until tender, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Let the leeks cool, then drain.

  6. Arrange the braised leeks on a large platter. Spoon half of the <em>romesco</em> sauce over the leeks. Sprinkle the crumbled Garrotxa cheese on top and serve with crusty bread and the remaining <em>romesco</em> on the side.

Make Ahead

The romesco sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and the cooked leeks can be refrigerated overnight. Let return to room temperature before serving.

Contributed By Photo © Lisa Linder Published February 2005

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