Originating in the Spanish town of Valls, near Tarragona, the calçotada is a springtime celebration in which the season’s first new spring onions (calçots) are roasted over coals until the outer skins are blackened and the interiors are sweet and toothsome. The point of the calçotada is the contrast between the partly caramelized, tender onions and the sensational, richly nutty sauce. Be sure to seek out Spanish pimentón, a spice made from dried smoked red peppers, which is available as dulce (sweet), agridulce (bittersweet) and picante (spicy), dulce being the most commonly used. The flavor of paprika simply can’t compare.
Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce
- 1 head garlic
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 3/4 cup (4 oz./125 g) blanched almonds, toasted
- 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
- 4 small day-old baguette slices
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
- 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar, or as needed
- 1 tsp. pimentón dulce
- Fine sea salt
- 24 spring onions, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide at the bottom
- Crusty bread for serving
1. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high. Grill the garlic, turning until browned on all sides, 13 to 15 minutes. Grill the tomatoes, turning once, until the skins are browned and wrinkled, about 5 minutes. Let the garlic and tomatoes cool, then peel.
2. Meanwhile, place the spring onions on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the outer skins have blackened and shriveled, about 8 minutes. Wrap the onions in parchment paper and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.
3. Put the peeled garlic and tomatoes, nuts and baguette slices in a food processor and pulse to combine. Mix in the olive oil, vinegar, pimentón and salt to taste. The finished sauce should be thick but not dry; add more oil and vinegar if needed. Divide among individual dipping bowls and set aside. (The sauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; bring to room temperature before serving.)
4. Transfer the onions to a large serving platter or a wooden board. Serve with crusty bread. Invite diners to peel the onions with their fingers and dip them into the romesco sauce. Serves 4.