GRILLED LEEKS WITH ROMESCO
by Sur La Table
In Spain's Catalonia region, people celebrate the harvest of calçots, the local sweet green onions, with an outdoor feast. The onions are blackened over a wood fire, wrapped in newspaper to steam until done, then unwrapped and served with romesco, the region's famous red pepper sauce. Leeks are not identical to calçots, but they are just as compatible with romesco, a sauce thickened with bread and almonds.
Serves 4 to 6
• 3 dried ñora chiles (see notes), or 1 large dried New Mexico Chile
• 2 plum (Roma type) tomatoes, about 1/2 pound total, quartered lengthwise
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled
• 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 slice Italian country bread, about 1/2 inch thick and 4 inches long, crust removed
• 3 tablespoons whole natural almonds, toasted (see notes)
• 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, or more to taste
• 1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika), medium or hot
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• Kosher or sea salt
• 12 small to medium leeks, white and pale green parts
• 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• Kosher or sea salt
1. To prepare the romesco, stem and seed the chiles. Put the chiles in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover them. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let stand until cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the tomatoes and garlic in a small baking dish just large enough to hold them. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and turn them in the oil to coat them evenly. Bake until the tomatoes soften and begin to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small skillet over moderate heat. Add the bread and fry until golden on both sides. Cool, then break into four or five pieces.
4. Put the softened chiles (reserving the soaking liquid), roasted tomatoes and garlic, bread, almonds, vinegar, pimentón, and cayenne in a food processor or blender. Process to a paste. With the motor running, add the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil through the feed tube (or the hole in the blender lid), processing until the mixture is nearly smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in salt to taste. Thin, if desired, with some of the reserved chile-soaking liquid.
5. Prepare a moderate charcoal fire for indirect grilling or preheat a gas grill to medium (375°F), leaving one burner unlit. Trim the root end of each leek, but keep the base intact to hold the leek together. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise and wash well between the layers. Dry thoroughly.
6. Put the 6 tablespoons of olive oil on a tray or platter. Turn the leeks in the oil to coat them all over. Season with salt. Place the leeks over indirect heat, cover, and cook, turning once, until the leeks are soft and both sides are nicely colored, about 15 minutes. If necessary, put them directly over the coals or gas flame for the last couple of minutes, uncovered, to char them slightly. Serve hot or warm with a dollop of romesco, or pass the sauce separately.
· Dried ñora chiles may be ordered from www.latienda.com.
· For toasting almonds, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden brown inside, about 8 minutes for sliced almonds, 12 to 15 minutes for whole almonds. (Break one open to check.) Let cool.