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Smoked roasted almonds are one of the most versatile ingredients that I use. They are great on salads or alone by themselves, however, with very little work, they can actually be used as a healthy spice and flavor enhancer that can bring complexity to simple dishes.

Whether the dish is meat or vegetarian, there is always a place for smoked roasted almonds to shine in. I made a simple weekday dinner of pan seared tuna and zucchini pasta salad and used roasted smoked almonds to season both dishes.

For the main dish, the smoked almonds are incorporated into a Romesco sauce. Romesco sauces are red pepper and nut based sauce originated out of Spain, usually served with seafood. The sauce is easy and fast to make, and can be made 1 week ahead of time. I did have leftover sauce from this recipe that can be used as a dip for pitas and bread later.

The sauce is composed of bread pieces, roasted smoked almonds, roasted red peppers ( jarred or from the deli), garlic, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, olive oil and paprika.

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The bread, almonds, and garlic are pulsed together in a food processor.

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The red pepper and tomatoes are added to the processor and pulsed until ground to a paste.

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With the machine on, olive oil is gradually poured in.

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The sauce is processed until smooth, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

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To prepare the tuna steaks, the steaks are seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper.

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The recipe called for grilling the tuna, but I adapted it into searing. The tuna is seared for about 3 minutes on the first side in a well oiled heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat.

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The steaks are flipped over and cooked for another 2 minutes. This will yield a medium steak, if you want rarer steak, 2 minutes per side should be good.

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The steaks are removed and let rest for a few minutes, and the Romesco sauce spooned over the tuna steaks.

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For the vegetarian side, which can be very easily adapted into a vegan dish, the roasted smoked almonds is blended into a parsley pesto that the cooked pasta is tossed in. The recipe called for Farfalle pasta, but I substituted strozzapreti pasta that I had in my pantry.

The pasta is cooked per package instruction, then drained, tossed with a table spoon of olive oil, and set aside.

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While the pasta is cooking, I prepared the parsley almond pesto. Garlic and smoked almonds are processed together, then olive oil and parsley are added and processed until smooth. I did not have any parmesan in my fridge, so I skipped it which I did not notice to have affected the flavor. I seasoned the pesto with salt and pepper and set it aside.

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The zucchini are sliced into 1/4 inch rounds and sautéed in a pan on medium high heat with some olive oil until browned in spots.

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The zucchini slices are seasoned with salt and pepper as well as red pepper flakes.

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The zucchini and pesto are transferred to a large bowl and tossed with the drained and oiled pasta.

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I added some feta to the pasta, but it can be left out to make the dish vegan friendly.

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Grilled Tuna with Smoked Almond Romesco Sauce
Farfalle with Zucchini and Parsley Pesto

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