Grilled scallions with Salibitxada sauce
When we were in Spain we were lucky to be in Barcelona during the calçot season and I wrote about the experience here. Calçot is a type of scallion or green onion, only it is grown in a special way that makes it much thicker, more like the size of a slender leek. It is a specialty of Catalunya and the Calçot from Valls in Tarrragona (a province of Catalunya) has a a DOC status under EU regulations. Valls, located about an hour away from Barcelona, is credited with “inventing” the calçot . A farmer is said to have left his green onions in the ground longer than usual, then replanted them with piles of soil around to protect them. When he returned to harvest them he found long, tender and sweet tasting green onions they now call calcot. Today they are produced by harvesting fully grown green onion bulbs, allowing them to stay dormant for a few months and then replanting them in the fall. They are covered by mounds of earth (like asparagus) to keep them white. Once harvested, they are fat, tender and extra long.
On the last Sunday of January tens of thousands of visitors make the “pilgrimage” to Valls for one reason and one reason only: to celebrate the festival known as Calçotada (“eating of green onions”) and eat calçots with salbitxada sauce (similar to romesco). “Best calçot” competitions take place and thousands of calçots are grilled over open fire and consumed with wine. By the way, the earth clinging to the calçots is not removed and washed off. They are grilled with the earth still clinging to them, protecting the outer layers as they cook. You eat only the inner part and that stays nice and clean throughout the process. Calçot festival is not limited to Valls. It is harvested across the region and restaurants, farmhouses and back yards fire up the wood burning ovens or charcoal grills to roast the calçots in celebration of Calçotada for eagerly awaiting diners.
Since we don’t have calçot here I thought I’d grill regular green onion, the whole of which would be edible, and loved the results. The grilled green onions are good on their own with or without the sauce, alongside other foods, on top of crostini, to top a pizza, with other grilled vegetables. Works for me. If you use them to top a bruschetta you may want to chop them up a bit, easier to bite through.
I grill the onions on an outdoor grill so they are nice and charred, turning them over a couple of times and moving them around. I haven’t tried it in the oven yet.
I am including a recipe for the salbitxada sauce, very similar to romesco that you can serve with the onion, but they are also good on their on.
3 bunches green onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coasre sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large tomatoes
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 cloves garlic, roasted
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper as needed
Grilling the onions:
Trim the root end of the onions but don’t cut too far in, just remove the stringy part.
Trip the top green part just as needed. They don’t have to be of even height.
Wash and then dry the onions in a kitchen towel.
Place on a foil covered baking pan and drizzle with the olive oil, tossing them around so all of the onions are coated with the oil.
Heat the grill to medium high and using tongs lay the onions over the grill.
Grill until the are blackened and wilted, moving them around as needed. They will not be ready at the same time so remove them from the grill as necessary, as they are done.
To serve use the tongs to lay them on a platter or pile them in a bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, place on a foil lined baking pan and roast in a 400F over for about 20 minutes.
Toast the almonds in a skillet until fragrant, being careful not to burn them.
Roast the unpeeled garlic in a foil or parchment packets until soft and fragrant, about 15 minutes in 400F oven.
To assemble, grind the almonds to a coarse powder in a food processor, add the tomatoes, chili, garlic (without the skin) and process until blended. I prefer some texture so I don’t over process. If you prefer a smooth sauce process until smooth.
Remove the mixture to a bowl and add the vinegar and drizzle in the olive oil. You can do this in the food processor but I tend to do this by hand, it gives me more control over the texture and how much oil I am adding. Depending on how juicy the tomatoes were, you may need more, or less oil.
Taste and add salt and pepper.