To make aioli: in food processor, place bread and pulse to create fine crumbs. Measure 2-1/2 cups and return to processor (discard any excess). Drizzle with water and lemon juice; pulse once, then let stand 2 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and smoked paprika. Slowly drizzle in oil while processing, until smooth and thickened, stopping once to scrape down sides. Remove to small bowl.
Using a processor, combine the pequillo peppers and 6 Tbsp. of aioli and puree.
In each of six (4-ounce) straight-sided glasses, place about 2 Tbsp. of the pureed watercress. On the second layer, add the aioli mixture; top with 1 rounded tbs. of the pureed piquillo pepper and aioli, add another layer of cheese and spread level. Layer minced artichokes, about 2 Tbsp. aioli, a thin layer of the julienned piquillo pepper and top with 2 tbsp. of shredded or shaved cheese. Chopped layers should not be next to each other. Garnish, if desired, with scallions or ham. Serve immediately or chill for up to 1 hour.
TIP: Aioli can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and stir thoroughly before using.
TIP: Use frozen artichokes, cooked and chilled, or simply buy unmarinated ones from the salad bar. If you can’t find Spanish pequillo peppers, you can substitute roasted red peppers.
TIP: To make a crispy Serrano ham garnish, cut about 1 ounce into julienne and sauté in small skillet until lightly crisped. Drain on paper towels.
TIP: Also garnish with watercress sprigs and diced pequillo pepper if desired with left over ingredients.
TIP: If you don’t have any straight-sided small tumblers, use a sherbet glass.
TIP: Finely chop the vegetables and layer the ingredients in a small shallow dish. Serve with crackers or French bread as an appetizer
TIP: Best paired with a Navarro or Merlot.