Calçots are a mild, sweet type of onion (though they look a lot like leeks) grown in Valls, the south of Catalunya. They are cultivated by planting an onion in the ground and piling the earth up over it again and again so that it grows vertically. They are harvested during a very short season in late Winter. Catalans enjoy at least one calçotada per year. They really make an event of it, going off into the country to grill the calçots until they are charred and and then wrapping them in newspaper to finish cooking them in their own steam. The calçots are then served whole on red tiles, and to eat them you have to wear a bib, so you don't get filthy.
This is how it's done: grab a calçot, gently peel off the outer, charred layer, and dip generously into romesco sauce (if this nutty goodness is homemade, so much better; mine is especially delicious on just about everything), strech your arm out as high as it can go, throw your head back and drop the tip of the romesco'd calçot into your mouth. Chew. Repeat until you are stuffed. (Catalans don't stop there, though; a calçotada is not just a vegetarian BBQ. The second course usually consists of grilled meats or sausage with white beans. Calçotadas are for serious eating.) Enjoy with plenty of Spanish red wine.
I was psyched when I found out, thanks to the lovely Krista of Nosa Ria Market, that some crazy Californians were growing calçots here! I rushed to the Saturday Farmers market at the Ferry Building and yes! Allstar Organics has them! At $8 a pound, we ate a lot less calçots than we used to in Catalunya, but at least we got to reminisce and get a taste of our old home in our new one!
If you would like to try calçots, hurry, because they probably won't have them long. Contact me if you want my homemade romesco sauce. It's worth a try!