• October 2, 2023

When I Go Nuts at the Farmers Market, I Make Catalàn Escalivada

The only thing better than a good recipe? When something is so easy to do that you don’t even need it. Welcome to As simple as that, a column in which we guide you through the process of making dishes and drinks that we can prepare with our eyes closed.

My husband rolls his eyes and moans. A pyramid of peppers and several squat, shiny eggplants cover our small worktop. There are two heavy carrier bags on the floor, one full of pumpkin and the other with tomatoes. “You know this is my crazy season!” I answer and raise my hands defensively. The late summer farmers market. I can not help myself.

I know that when the season wears off, I am not alone with my feverish sourcing of products. The key to avoiding being overwhelmed is to quickly turn your prey into simple dishes that are not only tasty but also take up less refrigerator space. And where better to get inspiration than from Mediterranean kitchens that have for a long time gone without abundance, but historically seen cold storage? You already know ratatouille, the French classic, but now I would like to introduce you to its Catalan cousin: escalivada.

My first taste of this silky mix of peppers, eggplant, and onions came at a tapas and txakoli binge in Boston’s South End years before I ever set foot on the Costa Brava. At her permanent hotspot, Toro, chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette create a meaty version with smoked eggplant, an interpretation of the tradition of roasting vegetables directly in the coals.

Escalivada is a recipe without a recipe: whole peppers, small eggplants and thickly sliced ​​rings of sweet onions are brushed with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and slowly roasted until soft and rich, and then sprinkled with more olive oil and a hint of nutty sherry vinegar. The beauty of this is that the quantities are flexible and you can adjust the amount of each vegetable as needed.

When the grill is lit, you can roast the whole vegetables over the flames and turn them to cook them evenly and char until they are soft. Or you can individually wrap them in foil and roast them directly in the embers, stacking the coals on top. For the home-bound, two hours on a sheet pan in a 375-inch oven is enough, though you might want to wait for a cooler, rainy day. Regardless of how you cook the vegetables, once they’re cool enough, remove the husks and seeds from the peppers and tear or chop the meat into chunks. Also peel off the skin of the aubergine and cut into long strips. You can arrange the peppers, eggplant, and onion rings nicely on a platter and serve with olive oil, sherry vinegar, and more salt and pepper, or just carefully mix everything in a bowl with all the spices – it’s a nice mess in any case.

Versions of this dish exist in so many places, and they change depending on the local flavors. In southern France, ratatouille is seasoned with rosemary, thyme and oregano, the resinous herbs of Provence that characterize the scruffy landscape. In Greece, the same ingredients can be refined with lemon and lightened with fresh, fragrant dill. With this dish you can really go your own way.

Serve Escalivada next to A at room temperature grilled ribeye or Swordfish steak. Do you have something for one Snack dinner with crispy bread, cheese and olives. Or do it like me, spooning spoons straight out of the fridge (where the flavors intensify overnight), whether I’m lounging and grazing in a vacation rental or sweating in the city. It is the epitome of a relaxed atmosphere. So don’t worry the next time you lose it at the farmers market: let escalivada help you keep calm and vegetarian.

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