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Serrano Ham Salad with Almond Garlic Sauce

['1 garlic clove', '1/2 teaspoon salt', '1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons slivered blanched almonds (3 oz), toasted and cooled', '1/2 cup water', '3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil', '1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar*', '1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce such as Tabasco', '1/8 teaspoon black pepper', '1 (7- to 8-oz) bottle Spanish piquillo peppers*, rinsed, drained, and patted dry', '1 head romaine (1 lb), outer leaves discarded and head cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (8 cups)', '1/4 lb thinly sliced serrano ham*']

Mince garlic and mash to a paste with salt using a heavy knife or a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a blender along with 1/2 cup almonds, water, oil, vinegar, hot sauce, and black pepper, then blend until dressing is very smooth, about 1 minute. Coarsely chop remaining 2 tablespoons almonds.
Cut a lengthwise slit in peppers and discard any seeds, then cut peppers into 1/4-inch-wide strips.
Divide romaine and peppers among 4 plates, then arrange ham on top. Drizzle each serving with some dressing and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Serve remaining dressing on the side.
*Available at specialty foods shops, some supermarkets, and The Spanish Table (206-682-2827).

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