Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cousin Calçot

I did something very Catalan the other day. I ate calçots and romesco sauce. Unfortunately I can’t say I went to a calçotada, but I did make my own romesco, so that’s good. Now for an explanation: calçots are in the onion family. You could say they’re the Catalan cousin of leek and spring onion, but they don’t really like to leave Catalunya, they don’t even have a Spanish translation. Cousin Calçot loves to hang out in the countryside, that’s where he thrives, especially at huge group, with lots of people gathering just in his honor, they even call it a calçotada. Calçot is pretty close to a special red sauce, romesco. They always go together, especially at these calçotadas.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been to a calçotada, but I’ve heard about them, and it doesn’t sound like a bad deal. Lots of people hanging out in Spanish spring weather, drinking cava and wine, eating grilled calçots dipped in romesco sauce.

I should go, but until then, I have my back-up plan: a grill pan that I put over my burner, and some homemade romesco. I’ve never heard of calçots outside of Catalunya, but I think you could grill up some spring onions (cousin Spring Onion, that is) if you want a substitute.

You can find romesco at most grocery stores here, regular or gourmet brands. The strange thing is when I’ve asked my Catalan friends what’s in it, they’ve said, “oh, I don’t know, lots of things, almonds…?” I never really got a straight answer. I knew it was a red pepper based sauce (here they’re called piquillo peppers, I think they’re like small red bell peppers),

but the strange thing is none of the ingredients of the store-bought jars list peppers. The first ingredient is usually almonds and hazelnuts, followed by tomatoes somewhere in there, but not peppers, which I’m pretty sure is the authentic way. Anyways, not being able to use some fancy jarred romesco as a loose guide, I went to one of my favorite websites, There I found a really good recipe for romesco, and I only slightly changed it.

Romesco Sauce
Adapted from

1/3 c whole blanched almonds, toasted
1 slice firm white sandwich bread, crust discarded and bread torn into pieces
1 large garlic cloves
½ tsp dried hot red pepper flakes (or one little, crushed hot red pepper)
½ c coarsely chopped drained bottled roasted red peppers (I didn’t drain, and that way I didn’t have to add olive oil, you can add some of the juice if the sauce is too thick)
1 small-medium ripe tomato
2 Tbsp white-wine vinegar
½ tsp salt, or to taste

Easy: grind everything together in a food processor until you get a thick sauce, but consistency can be changed by adding red pepper juice or olive oil. Serve with calçots if you can get them, or one of its cousins if you can’t (spring onion, leek) or any sort of grilled vegetable.


d anything said...

Proper romesco. None of that tinned stuff with tomato in. What were they thinking of?

Anyway, the colours and flavours are great here. Do you think there's a good way of restructuring or deconstructing this, perhaps for pintxo purposes?

Courtney said...

well, there is a bit of tomato in there (alright, one), but true, the base is pepper. and as you well know, it was me who said 'i´d like to do a deconstructed romesco, a bit of pepper, a toasted almond, a slice of tomato, perhaps a touch of garlic, well, you know how it goes. but restructuring, don't can come up with something for that