It all started with those little, bright green lantern-shaped peppers call pimientos de padron—more familiarly known simply as "padrons"—that only required a quick blistering in hot oil and shower of salt to melt my knees as soon as I popped one in my mouth. For awhile they were only available from Manuel Recio and Leslie Lukas-Recio's Viridian Farms stand at the Portland Farmers Market, but pretty soon they were being featured on the hottest chef's menus all over town.
calçots (pron. cahl-SOH). In Spain they're harvested from November through April, and festivals known as calçotadas are held in towns all over the region.
This video explains it better than I ever could.)
Conserva—we finally held our own mini-calçotada on the patio. Traditionally served with beer and a variety of grilled meats, for our home version of a calçotada Dave quickly grilled bone-in pork chops and I made an herbed rice pilaf with chopped tarragon, red-veined sorrel and parsley from the garden…though the drips on our shirts signaled that we may need some more practice on the eating portion of this spring festival.
Calçots with Salbitxada Sauce
For the salbitxada sauce:
4 Tbsp. blanched almonds
4 fresh bitxo peppers (or other mildly hot pepper)
8 cloves garlic
4 ripe tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
For the grilled calçots:
2-3 bunches (20-30) Spanish calçots or very young spring onions with long greens (when the bulb is very small)
To prepare the calçots, simple build a hot fire in a grill. On the grate over the coals, spread out the calçots with the white end facing the center of the grill and the greens extending over the outside edge of the grill (top photo). Grill, turning occasionally, so the outside is blackened but not charred and the whites feel tender when squeezed.
To serve, pull the calçots off the grill and peel off the outer skin with your fingers. Grasping the greens in your hand, dunk the white part in the salbitxada sauce, raise the onion aloft and lower the white into your mouth, biting it off at the top of the white portion. When the calçots are all gone, whomever has the least sauce (or, I suppose, the most) on their person is the winner.