A specialty of the Spanish region of Catalonia, calçots (pron. cahl-SOH) are a variety of giant scallion known as Blanca Grande Tardana. In Spain they are harvested from November through April, and festivals known as calçotadas are held in towns all over the region.
They are grilled over a hot fire, with the green tops laying outside the grill until the outer layer of the bulb is blackened. Then the calçot is lifted by the (cooler) greens, the charred outer layer is stripped off and the white is dipped into a bowl of a romesco-like sauce known as salbitxada (pron. sahl-beet-CHADA). The whole onion is then lifted into the air and the creamy inner parts are dropped into your mouth.
Here in Portland, you can find these traditional tapas treats under the Viridian Farms tent at the Portland Farmers' Market at PSU on Saturdays. If they sell out, or if you somehow miss the season, you can use larger green onions cooked over your backyard grill, dipped into the traditional sauce below. To get in the mood for hosting your own calçotada, watch this temptingly luscious video.
Sabitxada Sauce for Calçots
4 Tbsp. blanched almonds
4 fresh bitxo peppers (or other mildly hot pepper)
8 cloves garlic
4 ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Makes 2 1/2 cups or 4-6 servings.
Heat oven to 350°. Place almonds in hot oven to toast for 5-7 minutes. Place in a food processor or mortar and pestle and coarsely grind. Peel and dice tomatoes and set aside. Coarsely chop the peppers, removing the seeds and membranes. Peel and chop the garlic. Mash ground almonds, peppers and garlic into a paste using a mortar and pestle or food processor. Mix in tomatoes, parsley and vinegar. Pulsing the food processor, drizzle in the olive oil until sauce becomes thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with grilled “calcots” (green onions) or any other grilled vegetable. During summer months, consider serving this fresh sauce with grilled steaks.