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
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.
- 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)
- 4 bunches large spring onions, there should be about 12
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- To make the Romesco Sauce, put all the ingredients in a food processor, except the salt and hot red pepper flakes. Process to a coarse purée. Season with salt. Add a pinch of hot red pepper flakes if you want it spicier.
- Preheat a grill on high medium high or prepare a medium fire in a grill.
- 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.
- 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.
- Arrange on a platter and serve with Romesco Sauce.
- These can be served hot or at room temperature.
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.
Click on something to see the steps with a little more detail. Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.
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
Oh wow look at those colors. Its like a big party on a plate. Perfect with some chilled Beer on a Friday evening hey :)
Or red wine – pick your poison. Stop by some Friday! Ken
Yeah I love Red Wine :)
This looks amazing! I love the photos, all so vibrant bursting with colour, great post!
Everybody’s day (okay, maybe just mine) starts a little easier with color. Thanks for the comment. Ken
What?! Where’s the bathtub virgin in your opening mise-en-scène?
I almost used that, but since I no longer live in the neighborhood, I thought I’d give it a pass. YOU, however, do live in the neighborhood, so Ha! Ken
I love your recipes and your presentation!
Thank you – I hope you have a grill! Ken
Oh yes! We have a fireplace (we usually use wood) were we grill meat, veggies, cook flatbreads, soups and …paella! The food comes much more tasty.
Okay, now I’m jealous. We have a fireplace (in the middle of our living room). I haven’t worked up the courage yet to try grilling in it (smoke, exploding logs, poor temp control), difficulty of photographing. But now you’ve thrown down the gauntlet… Ken
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.
Haha… Somebody asked us if we were interested in doing a PC book – we said no. This is great, just watch your impulse to slather. :) Ken
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
This looks so good! Ramps are coming into season. Thanks for sharing this. Best!
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
Still not seeing spring onions in the markets I shop at, but your Romesco must be on my menu soon….fabulous!
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
You had me at patio…
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
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!
Fennel’s to the left, in the second photo, and speaking from personal experience, it’s a great combination. Thanks for stopping by. Ken
– 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
What gorgeous colors!
Thanks, Michelle. Spring may have finally arrived here. Ken
This looks ludicrously good. Stunning photos – I wish I could eat the screen. Always on the look out for a sumptuous sauce. Here goes :)
“Ludicrously good…” I’ll take it. You look like a Romesco veteran. I can’t believe this is your first encounter. No fear – it’s ludicrously easy. :) Ken
This looks amazing! I think I saw something similar on the show “No Reservations.”
It wouldn’t surprise me. A calçotada is exactly the kind of thing that would attract Anthony Bourdain. Thanks for stopping by. Ken
Are you dropping names to see if we’re still following you?
We miss those evenings on your patio . . . especially the impromptu ones.
Oh, uh, er, hi, Chris. Glad to see you’re still following along. Want any spring onions? :) Ken
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.
Hi, John–As a kid who grew up not far from Lake Michigan, I know that nothing is certain until at least the third week in April. Romesco will still be there. Ken
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!
Hi, Alexandra–Jody’s teaching a pasta class today, but I’ll make sure she sees your comment. I’m so happy you liked recipe. Thank you for your generous comment. Ken
I love that my recipes get woven through people’s lives and then back to me. I hope you are doing well. best, Jody
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!
Tal–Like I said: it goes on EVERYTHING. And, per our lens conversation, 24-105. Ken
hey tal… so good to hear from you. xox J
Golly, that sounds good. I need to put this on our list.
You guys are going to love it, I promise. Ken
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
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.
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
This is so dripping with summer! I love it!
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
This looks crazy amazing! My kids love purple onions so I can see them eating this up!
Wait until they taste the Romesco. There’s no learning curve involved. :-) Thanks for commenting. Ken
Your pictures are so bold and amazing. I love all the colors and everything looks delicious!
Thanks. By the way, whenever I’m in Paris, I tour the “macaron route” – Mariage Freres, Laduree, etc. Macarons rule! Ken
Team Macaron! Thanks for the travel tip! My friend Deanna has been to Paris, but I have yet to go. It’s on my bucket list of places to visit. :) -Kellie
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think I mixed up spring onions with green onions. :>) Those spring onions are bit meatier with the bulb?
Yes. But if your green onions are large enough you can grill them too, crosswise–or put them in a foil packet with a little evoo and salt and grill the packet. Don’t wrap the pack tightly – you want some smoke to get in. They’ll half grill, half steam, and still be good with Romesco. Ken
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Thanks, guys. Works with ramps as well as spring onions. Ken
you makes me miss mommy’s kitchen :))
I hope that means she’s a good cook! Thanks. Ken
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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.
Save a few for the 4th of July–you want regret it. ;-) Ken
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Sounds like a great dinner all round. I’m going to have to pick up a copy of JERUSALEM. Too many people are referencing it to ignore. Ken
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…!
Thank you, Luana. Romesco is one of the homemade staples that rotates through our refrigerator (along with preserved lemons, pikliz, homemade mayo and Vietnamese dipping sauce. Ken
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What the hell do you do with the oil for the romesco ingredients???????
Vin–I am so sorry. You’re the first person to draw attention to that. I was at a dinner party last night where someone served the Romesco with grilled chicken thighs. You’re the first person who hasn’t read over that direction and included the olive oil with the previous ingredients. I’ll change the post, but I’ll also tell you that you have two choices. You can either add the olive oil in a thin stream to the other ingredients while food processor is running. This produces a smoother, more emulsified Romesco. Or you can do what we usually do, which is just add it with the other ingredients during the initial phase of chopping everything together. This produces a coarser, chunkier version of the sauce. Thanks for drawing attention to this. Ken
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