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Wake up veggies with romesco sauce

Romesco sauce is a wakeup call for boring veggies. Gutsy and garlicky, this Spanish sauce is sultry with ground almonds. Rich and intense, it’s complex enough to hold its own. It has a rosy terracotta hue, but it’s more than just pretty on a plate.

As a dip or dab, romesco coaxes out vegetables’ natural luster. It adds spark to Brussels sprouts and crudites. It pairs with fresh green beans, snowy steamed cauliflower and roasted vegetables from seasonal acorn squash to sweet bell peppers. It wakes up leftovers, too.

Another plus — romesco can be made up to a week in advance. In fact, the flavors deepen and mellow over time. A platter of veggies and a bowl of romesco can be a lifesaver throughout the holiday season. Chances are, there’ll be plenty of wine and plenty of dessert, but amid the excess, simple seasonal produce is something to be thankful for.

Romesco Sauce

Makes about 1½ cups, 8 servings

2/3 cup blanched, whole almonds

1 mild dried chile, such as an ancho

1 slice baguette, torn into pieces

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 or 2 ripe plum tomatoes or 2/3 cup canned fire-roasted tomatoes, drained

1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1½ teaspoons sweet paprika

1/3 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Pour the nuts onto a small rimmed baking sheet and toast until they darken slightly and smell buttery, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, set the chile in a small bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. When cool, drain the pepper. Remove and discard the seeds and stem.

Drop the bread, garlic, chile and almonds into a food processor or blender. Process for a minute or so, until a thick paste forms, scraping the sides. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, paprika and olive oil and pulse. The sauce should be of a hummus-like consistency, thick but not gluey. Add a tablespoon or two of water if it seems too dry. Add sea salt to taste.

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