Sometime in the middle of January when the weather was cold and grey and I was mindlessly channel surfing I found Anthony Bourdain's Spain Journal on the Travel Channel. I was mesmerized by his participation in a Calcotada Festival at a private farm. The Spring Onions roasting on the fire, the thick chunky red romesco sauce and the Spanish Wine flowing like water . I wanted to go there immediately, I wanted to taste those sweet onions dipped in the Romesco sauce while the red wine dribbled down the side of my mouth. That was the moment I knew I had to visit Spain ! Seriously, we usually make our travel decisions on something that gripped at our hearts and souls. We traveled to Italy one year after seeing the movie Only You with Marisa Tomei. We both fell in love with Positano and knew that someday we would be there walking down the steps to the beach at Positano and the Mediterranean Sea. And we did exactly that-it was incredibly beautiful and romantic.
So of course after watching Anthony Bourdain all I can think of is that wonderful farm in the Catalan Region of Spain in the Spring-and guess where we are planning our next trip ? Yes Spain-Barcelona, Madrid, Andalusia and Catalonia and as many more places that we can squeeze in without filling squeezed in ! And in honor of the vacation planning and the memory of that first glimpse of Catalonia thanks to Anthony Bourdain (PS I love him and his show ) I am celebrating Spring in Seattle with our own little Calcotada Festival.
I'm heading to Pike Place Market looking for spring onions and the ingredients for the Romesco Sauce. Even Saveur magazine fell in love with the recipe, check out their recent recipe and article . I searched and searched for authentic Spanish Romesco Sauce recipes -I stumbled on this one at La Tienda the Best of Spain. I also found a beautifully written article in the LA Times describing the Catalonian alchemy of a good romesco sauce. If you can try and ignore all the ads please read the article ,it's wonderfully romantic ! And it's accompanied by several Romesco Sauce recipes.
The recipe I finally settled on was one I found at a blog called In Praise of Sardines by Chef Brett Emerson. Apparently he has opened a lovely little restaurant in San Francisco that was recently written up in Food and Wine . Check out the web site and on your next visit stop by his restaurant Contigo and let me know how it was. I'm putting it on my list of stops in San Francisco just because I loved the things I found on his blog !
I bought everything I needed for the Festival at Pike Place Market. The peppers,vinegar,almonds,hazelnuts and garlic-all from a wonderful store called "The Spanish Table". The onions and tomatoes came from one of the produce stands at the market,the bread from Three Girls Bakery and the shrimp from one of the many fish purveyors at the market. It was such a gorgeous day for shopping at the market I was easily distracted by the flowers and people. I wish I would have come later in the afternoon because there was a BBQ competition going on and the street was packed with different cooks and my oh my the smell of BBQ was everywhere. Unfortunately for me cooking had just started at 10am and wouldn't be ready for a bit. That's what I love about Pike Place Market,always a surprise and always something delicious !
So back to the Calcotada Festival- I decided that I can't have a festival without dessert so keeping with the theme we will be have Crema Catalana. I found this recipe at a beautiful blog by the beautiful Laylita, a fellow blogger from Seattle. It is so sweet and indescribably delicious. Jorge,my brother in law,is going to be very sorry he missed this dessert ! He loves flans and creme brulee type desserts and this one is perfection.
Salsa de Romesco
adapted from Brett Emerson
Yields about 3 cup
7-8 dried Nora chilies (reconstituted in water that is brought to boiling and chilies allowed to steep for about 1 hr-save the water , throw out the seeds and stems)
6 Tablespoons good Spanish Sherry Vinegar 1 1/2 cup hazelnuts -skins removed
1 1/2 cups marcona almonds-blanched
3 slices bread - torn into 1-inch pieces
approximately 1 1/2 cups Spanish extra virgin olive oil
3 small tomato
1½ cloves garlic, one whole and unpeeled, the half clove peeled and minced
sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons bittersweet Spanish paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper-if you want it spicy otherwise eliminate or season to taste
Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
Tear chili(s) in half and remove stem and any seeds. In a pan, heat the chilies in enough vinegar to cover the chili halves and allow to soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Strain the chili (s),reserve the liquid,throw away any stems or seeds.
In another pan, fry the nuts and bread in 1 cup of the olive oil over medium heat until golden brown . Scoop out the toasted nuts and bread and reserve them. Save the olive oil, allowing it to cool to room temperature, to add to the sauce later.
Roast the tomato and whole clove of garlic in the oven for 15 minutes. I left the tomato skins on during roasting and when I added to the sauce.
In a mortar, the traditional way , or in a food processor, pound or grind the raw garlic with a pinch of salt. Then add the nuts, bread and roasted garlic and pound/grind to a paste. Add the tomato, pepper , cayenne, 1/2 cup of the reserved vinegar, salt and continue to pound/grind.
Gradually drizzle in olive oil, first the nut infused oil from the frying of the nuts and then an additional ¼ to ½ cup oil, until the sauce reaches a spoon able consistency. Adjust the flavor by adding more vinegar and salt to your taste.
While you can use it right away, the sauce tastes even better the next day and keeps for about a week.
Calcots,Romesco Sauce and Shrimp
1 pound tail-on large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 bunches large spring onions, bulbs trimmed of their roots and greens attached
Best-quality olive oil, preferably Spanish
1 loaf pain rustic or country white bread, sliced 3/4 -inch thick on the diagonal
1. Heat a grill over medium heat. Toss the shrimp and the onions with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt; brush the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
2. Grill the onions until the bulbs are tender and with good grill marks and the green parts are somewhat charred, several minutes. Rotate the onions occasionally with tongs for even grilling. Set aside.
3. Clean the surface of the grill and cook the shrimp next, rotating for even grilling just until the flesh is opaque and firm.
4. Clean the surface of the grill and grill the bread, rotating for even grilling. Serve the warm bread, shrimp and onions on a platter with a large bowl of romesco sauce in the center for dipping.
A perfect night for our first of many Calcotada Festivals !
Ahhhh the Crema Catalana.....so sweet,so light..and the burnt caramelized sugar on top..mmmm
I am so grateful that I can spend a wonderful day shopping and enjoying the market and then come home and prepare such an incredible meal from the market's bounty. It was a lovely dinner, we sat and talked and dreamt about our trip to Spain . Life can sometimes be harsh but when we take the time to create these little moments for ourselves it's magical. I wish you a little magic in your life.
PS. You can see my market shopping adventure over on my work blog http://blog.clippervacations.com/