One of the things I missed living out of Spain is Calçots. Calçots are a variety of onions grown inland in Catalonia. It is a seasonal food and you normally see them in February and sometimes in March. You can find them in the masias outside of Barcelona and in the surrounding villages. We drove to Montserrat yesterday to see the monastery and the famous black virgin.
It is cold in February in the mountains. The air is fresh and the view is beautiful. After an hour walk you really want to get into the warmness of an old masia and get your hands dirty with the food. In our case, we drove to Collbató, which is located right at the foot of the mountain.
Catalan lunch starts with bread and tomato. Do it yourself kind of thing. On the table you find olive oil, toasted bread (they call them here llescas), garlic, tomato, and salt. My three year old shows us how to rub the tomato and olive oil into the bread. They do it at his daycare and teach the kids how to prepare this starter.
After you are done with your bread and tomato, the waiters bring the calcots. This is where you really get your hands dirty. You have to take out the burnt shell of the onion and dip the tender part in the sauce. It is called the Romesco sauce and it is made of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, and garlic.
After you have peeled and eaten some of them, your hands get really dirty and smell of burnt onions. Your wine glass also gets stained and smells alike. And you like it. You actually enjoy of how your hands smell.
The problem is that after you are done with the calçots the waiters bring the meat. And even though the meat looks very good, you know you can’t eat another bite. You are full. Then the desert and coffee are served. And the restaurant invites all of you for a drink. When you finally get out of the dining room it is almost 6pm. You feel like you will not be able to eat for a week.
Barcelona, February 10th 2013