September 20th, 2018

Ess, Ess/ Eat, Eat

Once you've tried it, you'll want to learn new ways to use this nutty, spicy, sweet, deeply satisfying condiment

Evan Kleiman

By Evan Kleiman

Published Dec. 23, 2015

Once you've tried it, you'll want to learn new ways to use this nutty, spicy, sweet, deeply satisfying condiment
This is one of those recipes that seems more complicated than it is. Make it once and you'll never need to look at the recipe again. Eat what you make and you'll become addicted, learning new ways to use the nutty, spicy, sweet, deeply satisfying condiment. It's a no-brainer to pour over grilled, broiled or poached fish or chicken, but it's on vegetables where the sauce really shines.

A renowned Los Angeles- based chef/restaurateur, Suzanne Goin, famously serves this Spanish sauce atop potatoes. I've featured it here as part of a Grand Aioli, a dish where dipping becomes an art form of customization. I love it dribbled on fried eggs, tucked in a tortilla with whatever as a "colonial" salsa.

If you can't find dried pasilla chiles, then substitute chiles more commonly found New Mexico. Pasillas have a more complex sort of winy flavor and a bit more heat than the brighter flavored New Mexicochile.

This is one of those recipes where the quality of the bread makes a tremendous difference. It's a peasant dish and assumes a peasant loaf, so try to find a natural yeasted bread in your area.


  • 4 dried pasilla (ancho) chiles, seeds and stem removed
  • 1/3 cup raw almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 slices sturdy country bread
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 14-oz can peeled tomatoes in juice
  • 20 leaves flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp sherry vinegar to taste
  • Salt to taste

Leave the chiles to soak in warm water to cover while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Put the almonds on a small baking sheet and roast them in a 400 F oven just until the almonds expand a bit and the skins begin to pop off. You'll smell when they're right. Don't over roast. Set them aside to cool when done.

Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a skillet that will accommodate the bread slices. Toast the bread on both sides until nice and golden. Remove from pan and cool.

Once the toast is cooled to the touch, rip it into a few pieces to make it easier to blend. Combine with toasted almonds and garlic in a food processor. Process so that it's crumble-like but not too small. You want rustic here. Don't worry about the crusts. You can pick those out and eat them. Chef's delight!

Once the chiles are soft, drain them and pat dry. Heat the rest of the olive oil in the same skillet you used to toast the bread and saute the chiles until they darken and start to smell really good. Add the can of tomatoes with all the juice and cook over high heat, squishing the tomatoes as needed with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.

Cook the chile-tomato mixture until the tomato juices evaporate. Add salt to taste.

Add the chile-tomato mixture to the bread-almond mixture in the blender. Add the sherry vinegar and the parsley, if using, and puree to your desired texture. I like it so I can still see pieces of almond.

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(Evan Kleiman is an active speaker on culinary subjects as well as issues of food culture and sustainability. You can follow her exploits on her blog at One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics and love.