"Some onions make me cry. Scallions make me laugh." Meathead
In early spring in Spain there are aromatic festivals in many villages in Catalonia, the region around Barcelona. The Festa de la Calcotada, consecrates the first thing edible from the garden: Green onions called calcots.
The calçot is a thick sort of green onion or scallion. They are planted in summer, and pop out of the ground early in spring. They are grown like white asparagus, by mounding dirt around the young shoots as they emerge so the sun can't strike them. The result is a long thick white stalk with a crown of green leaves at the top.
Calcotada (the live-fire events that celebrate the vegetable) feature calcots grilled quickly over grapevine cuttings until charred and the tops get crispy, and they are seasoned by smoke. They are then wrapped in newspaper to steam, peeled to remove the dirty outer layer, presented on clay roof tiles to keep them warm, dipped in romesco sauce, a paste of sweet red peppers, almonds, garlic and olive oil, and, with head thrown back, slurped down like a pelican swallowing a fish, biting off the white part and discarding the green.
Sausages and chicken are thrown on the grill and the whole feast is washed down with cava, the delightful sparkling wine from the Penedes region, or the local red wine, also slurped with head back, from a porron, the classic Spanish bottle with a nozzle. Here we see Chef Anthony Bourdain drinking from a porron.
We have a patch of our herb garden in which we have planted a type of wild onion. We pretty much ignore the patch and it rewards us with tender green onions in spring. I don't bother mounding up the dirt, but I do have several grapevines, so I can cook them the traditional way. But you can do this at home with storebought scallions and any old grill, even a gas grill. It is a ritual of spring at my house.
Makes. 2 servings as a side dish
Takes. 15 minutes
2 handfuls of scallions
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup romesco sauce
1) Prep. Rinse the scallions, cut off the dead and brown greens, chop off the roots, pull off the dirty outer layer from the bulbs, and sprinkle them lightly with salt, pepper, and olive oil in that order.
2) Fire up. Preheat the grill in a 2-zone configuration. Align the grill grates so that you can place the bulbs directly over the hot side, and the greens over the indirect zone, without them falling through. Leave the lid open and stand by the grill, rolling the onions around and letting them char a bit but not blacken too much. The greens should toast nicely, but if they don't get crispy, you can flip the greens over the direct heat for a minute or two.
3) Serve. Enjoy the grilled calcots with a bowl of romesco sauce for dipping. Wash it down with Catalan wine.