A patio of one’s own – Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco

Here’s the scene: working-class neighborhood, first house, first back yard, first patio.  Radical move against the local pave-the-yard-build-a-grape-arbor esthetic.  We christened the patio’s finish by inviting neighbors Pam and Chris to join us for Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco.  At the time, almost two decades ago, I’d heard of Romesco, the thick Catalan sauce based on roasted red peppers and nuts, but not grilled spring onions, which my wife assured me were a big deal in Barcelona.  She was right.  The Calçotada is a month-long Barcelonan lovefest to grilled spring onions, slathered with Romesco.  Imagine a sloppy Falstaffian bender lasting most of April, involving untold quantities of red wine and masses of fragrant grilled onions wrapped in newspapers or mounded in inverted clay roofing tiles and eaten with your hands.  Uh-huh, who isn’t down for that?

Staging your own personal Calçotada can be dicey in New England, and not just because the one time of the year when even Brahmins eat with their fingers is still a few months away. The night before we shot this the weatherman was predicting rain with the possibility of snow showers.  So much for the boards and sawhorses in the back yard with roofing tile dinnerware.  We resigned ourselves to a subdued mini-calçotada prepared on the faithful cast-iron rectangle of our kitchen griddle/grill.  From 9 to 10, while I was setting up and photographing the raw ingredients, Jody took advantage of the downtime to grill the vegetables below.

Why?  Because she could, because we had them and they needed cooking, and because when push comes to shove there isn’t anything that doesn’t go with Romesco, even when it’s cooked indoors.  (Picnic hint: hard-boiled eggs, asparagus, baby artichokes, cold shrimp and Romesco.)

Miraculously, the sun arrived at 10.  Quick!  Fire up the charwood!  We sliced the onions lengthwise in order to reduce the cooking time.  We left the roots attached, but trimmed, so the halves held together.  If you’re a purist, grill them whole.  They’re going to get a lot black on the outside and that’s okay.  If they’re a little underdone when you pull them off the grill cover them with a towel or just wrap them in a copy of El Périodico Latino and they’ll finish cooking in a few minutes.

The sun lasted until noon, and by 12:30 it was pouring, but who cared? Eat with your fingers.  Peel or not.  Everything is edible. Slather away.  Enjoy.  Ken

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-2

GRILLED SPRING ONIONS

WITH ROMESCO

Serves 4 as an appetizer

This recipe makes over a cup of Romesco, enough for you to double, triple or even quadruple the amount of onions, which we’d be inclined to do if we had a raft of people coming over.  But even if you don’t, you can use the Romesco on other grilled vegetables, or just about anything at else.  It’s particularly good with grilled bluefish, swordfish, tuna or lamb.  Although it’s convenient to grill the peppers for the sauce while you’re grilling the onions, Romesco tastes best if it’s had a chance to sit for an hour or so to allow the flavors to meld.

Romesco:

  • 2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, stemmed and seeded, sliced (see pics in photo gallery below for detailed view of the steps)
  • 1 ancho pepper, soaked in warm water until tender, stemmed and seeded, chopped
  • 2 sun dried tomato halves, soaked in warm water until tender, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 pinch hot red pepper flakes, optional (not shown in the ingredients photo)

Onions:

  • 4 bunches large spring onions, there should be about 12
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. To make the Romesco Sauce, put all the ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil, salt, and hot red pepper flakes.  Process to a coarse paste.  Season with salt.  Add a pinch of hot red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.
  2. Preheat a grill on high medium high or prepare a medium fire in a grill.
  3. Trim off the top greens of the onions so each onion is about 8 inches long.  Leave the root on, and cut the onions in half lengthwise.
  4. Season the onions with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil.  Cook on both side in a covered grill until charred on the outside and a knife easily penetrates the bulb.  Ours took about about 4 minutes per side, but use your knife to check before then.
  5. Arrange on a platter and serve with Romesco Sauce.
  6. These can be served hot or at room temperature.

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-3

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-4

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-5

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-6

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Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-29

Jody Notes:  

The morning after doing this post I asked Roxanne what she wanted for breakfast.  “Something with that stuff on it.  Not bread.”  Romesco.  I offered asparagus and sweet potatoes but neither enticed her.  She  just wanted “that stuff,” and settled on a hard boiled egg as the vehicle.  I feel the same way and when no one is looking I sometimes take the sneaky-spoon-in-the-peanut-butter approach and just eat it plain.   I love Romesco.  

I made a few changes to the Romesco recipe we posted last year.  I added smoked paprika and sun dried tomatoes.  They give it a slightly deeper flavor.  Which version do I prefer?  That’s like trying to decide between my favorite black cashmere sweaters.  The cardigan with the v-neck or the one with the round neck.  It just depends on my mood.

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-30

Click on something to see the steps with a little more detail.  Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

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76 thoughts

  1. How wonderful to wake, read and salivate over this! Hello weekend recipe! Thank you Jody and Ken (and eating at TRADE in Boston was terrific last night! More, more, more! ;-)

    • Hi, Patrick–Sounds like your meeting venue worked out okay. I’m glad you could get in – I have no influence. Good luck in the Marathon if we don’t cross paths before then. Ken

  2. Are these directions complete Ken? How long do I put the Romesco in the pressure cooker? Seriously, this is one perfect healthy recipe for the direction we have been moving in. Thanks so much, as always.

  3. I took the winter cover (ie garbage bag) off the Weber yesterday — can’t wait to try this! Any wisdom on how to grill the baby artichokes?

    • Off the top of my head, I don’t know. But I’d definitely take the time to figure it out, since the baby artichokes in this country are like some of the fullsize ones in Italy, i.e. you can eat the entire thing. I’d trim a couple and try to grill them straight–my gut tells me this would work. If the outside blackened before the interior was done, I’d either adjust the heat on the grill, or blanch them for a couple of minutes first. But my first choice would be to try to figure out how to do them with just the grill. If you try it, let me know what happens. Ken

    • Hi, Ann–Lucky you! We never see ramps unless we happen to stroll through Whole Foods between and 2 and 3 on a Tuesday afternoon when there’s a new moon (i.e. hardly ever). I’d bet they’d be delicious grilled, however a few years ago I ran across a great-looking recipe for Ramp Butter which still has priority on my to-do list. Ken

    • I WISH we could take credit for how great Romesco is, but that belongs to Catalonia. It really is one of those things that you don’t need to worry about the expiration date because there’s never any left. Steel-cut oats, grilled asparagus, a soft-boiled egg and Romesco for breakfast coming up! Ken

    • Ooooh, I hope that’s not an unrequited dream. Building a patio is one of those things you do BEFORE you’re rational and start saving for kids’ college and retirement (not that WE ever did that when we were supposed to…). Ken

      • Nope, not unrequited. We have a pretty nice backyard that fills the bill and I was sipping a margarita in that yard on a recent fleeting sunny day. Besides, as bathroom renovation chaos continues (and we move on to bathroom number 2) I’m convinced I will never build or renovate anything in my house again.

      • I once lived with a girlfriend during a renovation of her brownstone. We eventually split, as did the 3 other married couples we knew in the same neighborhood doing the same insane thing. Never again. Ken

  4. This looks amazing. When I first saw the picture of all the veggies, I mistook the onions for fennel. Now I want to try the Romesco with spring onions AND fennel. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. - I’ve been to Barcelona loads but I’ve never had Romesco! Shame. Will have to try this version as I love the inclusion of sun-dried tomatoes and smoked paprika.
    – Checked for the ‘Excerpt’ feature but it’s not available for my theme. Huh, happy enough with the look of mine for now.

    • How strange! (About the Excerpt, not Barcelona.) I thought the Excerpt business was a WP Dashboard thing, not theme-bound. Oh, well. Romesco is easy and a nice thing to have in your culinary back pocket the next time you’re grilling. We’ve eaten it with bluefish, swordfish, shrimp, lamb–especially blade chops. We don’t use QUITE as often as garlic yogurt in the summer, but pretty close. Ken

  6. What a colorful and delicious way to welcome Spring and inaugurate grilling season! We’re still a few weeks away from the opening of the farmers markets, so, I’ve no access to spring onions. When I do, though, I’d hope to follow your lead. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Happy Spring! Oh, Jody’s Romesco is the BEST!

    I cooked for Jody at the former Red Clay (first as an intern and then on Saturdays), and have such great memories of prepping and buzzing big batches of Romesco every Saturday morning for the day’s service. We served it as part of a Mediterranean appetizer plate along with fresh hummus, toasted pita chips, marinated olives, etc.

    Having lived in Barcelona, I’ve sampled my fair share of Romesco, but Jody’s vibrant and bursting-with-flavor version remains the standard against which I compare all others. So thrilled to have the ‘official’ recipe– my memory’s version had a few things missing!

    Thank you again for one of my favorite recipes in the world! Already planning patio menus around this keeper! Moltes gracies!

  8. I remember Nuno making huge batches of romesco sauce and I still have a sticky note in Jody’s book… That stuff is really good on anything! I have been using this recipe many times and it’s delicious. The photos are amazing!

  9. So I made the romesco–it’s so good! I am always claiming how much I hate bell peppers but this is the one exception. I am just eating it on bread, but tomorrow maybe will have it with some fried eggs. Thanks for convincing me to try it, and thanks for the great recipe. Do all versions use mint? I love that addition–you get a whiff of the mint before your first bite.

    • Hi, Sara–Romesco is pretty fail-safe wonderful. I know what you mean about the peppers. Raw red peppers are something that I can take or not, depending on how thin the rest of my salad is, but grilled or roasted they’re a different animal altogether and they really shine in this sauce. Once you’ve made it you tend to keep making it. According to my wife, mint is not always included, but I agree–it’s a fragrant addition. Ken

  10. Wow! Fantastic photos, and what a treat to ring in Spring! I made these last summer after having it a few times while over in Europe. Truly one of my favorite pairings, and your recipe has inspired me to make myself real soon! I will be following along.

    Cheers!

    • Hi, Nic–Welcome aboard! I checked out your blog–I think you’ll find a few things here up your alley, even if they don’t all contain bacon. :-) Thanks for the kind words. Ken

    • Hi, Christine–How are you? This IS dripping… if not exactly of summer, well, of its distant possibility. It must feel like summer where you are. This is fun, easy to make and people will think you’re an exotic culinary genius. Ken

  11. This post somehow slipped by me last week. I must make that Romesco sauce! I eat spring onions on a daily basis, so I suspect I’ll be a fan of this combination.

    • Hi, Gwynne–Lucky you! Spring onions are a transitory thing here. A few weeks, then they’re gone. Impermanence. The Romesco, on the other hand, you can make all year–and you will, believe me. I just smeared it on cheese and arugula sandwich for lunch. Ken

      P.S. Did you get my response about “wet” vs. “dry” scallops? Answer here: garumfactory@gmail.com.

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  15. Last week’s CSA came with two bunches of spring onions, so this recipe was a life-saver. We LOVED it. I keep a jar of roasted red peppers in the pantry for in-a-pinch moments, so everything came together in just a few minutes. I ended up doing a hybrid of your romesco sauce from last year and this one. So, so good! I was a little unsure about eating the onions with my hands at first, but I soon realized that was the most logical way to do it. Loved the recipe, and am actually thrilled that more spring onions arrived in yesterday’s box.

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  17. I’ve been to Barcelona so many times during the years….and the Romesco flavor was always there, waiting for me….!
    one thing I need to say: never saw it presented as YOU did…! the flavor is already described by the pictures! So beautiful…and TASTY…!

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