The trick here is to hold an onion up by one hand and peel a couple of blackened muddy outer layers with your other hand until you reach that perfectly pure white onion meat underneath. Chop off the roots and… dip the lukewarm onion in that creamy romesco sauce. Heavenly!
Oh you should see how people enjoy this classic. Last time I tried them was in Madrid with a bunch of friends. If you order calçots, you always get a large bib to keep your clothes from getting stained by the charred onion greens. Be prepared to get your hands, face and table dirty! But it’s great fun to do with friends. Wash it all down with a good Spanish white wine! And it’s a great time to show off your porron skills! Been there, done that, didn’t work for me. I guess I should practice more!
Onions vs. LeeksI don’t always find the right onions to prepare this Spanish classic. But leeks also work very well. You can choose how you prepare them: grilled on the barbecue wrapped in tinfoil, oven baked or baked on a hot plate. Leeks can take a while to cook. Nothing more unappetising than an undercooked leek. When I don’t have a lot of time, I usually steam the leeks first the day before. Let them chill overnight in the fridge and then grill them in an oven or on a hot plate to day after. It’s a shortcut, but it works.
Romesco Sauce Almond Dip
Romesco sauce is also a great companion for fish and seafood. I sometimes serve it with cooked prawns or grilled octopus.
I used the traditional ñora peppers because they are easy to find here in Spain. However you can leave them out or just add a pinch of smoked paprika to the sauce to replace it.
Love Spanish classics? Then also check out my Spanish escalivada or roasted vegetables!
Romesco Sauce Recipe
- 9 oz fresh tomatoes (250 g), chopped
- 3 oz almonds (100 g), peeled
- 1 slice bread diced
- 1 medium garlic clove sliced
- ½ small onion sliced
- 1 large dried ñora pepper
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- olive oil
Transfer the sliced onion, garlic and chopped tomatoes to a medium baking dish and sprinkle with some olive oil, pepper and salt.
Place the dish in a preheated oven at 356°F (180°C) and let the veg roast for 45 minutes until soft. Keep an eye on them. After that, turn the oven off, stir the vegetables and place the dish back in the cooling oven for another 30 minutes.
Let the ñora peppers soak in hot water.
Add the diced white bread to a medium non-stick pan without any oil or butter.
Place the pan over medium heat and roast the bread for 3 minutes. In the meantime blend the almonds roughly. Then add them to the roasted bread.
Stir well. Let the almonds roast for another 5 minutes until lightly colored. Stir frequently. Don't let it burn. Then take the pan off the heat and pour the almonds and bread back in the blender. Let it cool for a few minutes.
- Then blend it very finely. Add the roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion.
Blend again. Gently squeeze the soaked peppers, slice them open and scrape out the soft and fragrant inner pulp. Discard the seeds and skins. Add the soft pepper pulp to the blender and season with a pinch of salt.
Blend again. Then also add the red wine vinegar and about 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with a pinch of pepper.
Blend into a sticky wet puree. Check the seasoning and add extra salt to taste. Scoop the romesco sauce in a bowl and serve lukewarm.
While eating these grilled green onions we were hit by an unexpected déjà vu feeling. Last year we lived in Barcelona for a while. There we found ourselves right in the middle of the calçots season. This Spanish delicacy is a real treat. It is a dish of local thick young green onion. Locals love to grill these onions on a charcoal fire.
Once the onions are grilled, then they are traditionally served on a huge tinfoil lined ceramic tile. Good to know: these grilled onions are not cleaned at all! You can expect clumps of dirt on your plate. So what you have to do, is take the grilled onion up by its greener part, raise your arm up high and carefully peel one or two layers using your other hand until you reach the immaculate white flesh underneath.
Grilled Green Onions
Cut off the roots. Now calçots come with a delicious Spanish almond sauce called romesco. You dip the spring onion in this sauce and raise it above your tilted head and carefully lower the onion into your mouth. Bite off what you can handle. That’s the way to do it! You can surely imagine that your hands get all covered with the charcoal and dirt while eating them. No problem, each authentic calçots restaurant provides you with a cute bib.
So how do calçots taste? Sweet, creamy and subtle. We both had a portion of them as an entree and roasted goat afterwards. Next time we’ll order two portions each for dinner. It’s absolutely amazing…
- 16 medium fresh spring onions
- olive oil
1) Carefully remove the outer skins of the spring onions up until the roots. Wash the spring onions and drain on a clean kitchen towel. Cut off the tougher tops of the green leaves. Keep the roots on.
2) Then place the cleaned spring onions on an oven tray and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Season with pepper and salt. Grill the onions for 30 minutes under a preheated grill at 302°F (150°C) until soft and smooth. Cover the greener parts of the onions with a piece of tinfoil after 10 minutes to avoid them from burning. Leave the heads and roots uncovered.
3) Then turn off the heat in the end but leave the spring onions to cool in the hot oven for another 15 minutes.
4) Remove the hot green onions and transfer them to a clean tray. Serve them lukewarm as a side.