I was listening to my local NPR station on the way home yesterday, when the weather report came on. "Tomorrow is the first day of fall," he said, "not that we've really had much of a summer."
Fall usually enters with panache down here—after several weeks of shortening days but hot sun, making us squint on our morning commutes, autumn appears like a debutante at a coming out party. The doors are thrown open and the fog sweeps in, lingering until noon, retreating for a few hours and swarming back in by five. It wasn't much of a shock after the West Coast's abnormally cold summer, but I still say welcome! Bring on the crucifers, sweet fall carrots, and as many apples as I can eat.
First, though, I wanted to say farewell to the flavors of summer. I plucked chiles from our plants and made them into salsa with the last of the red, ripe tomatoes; last bunches of basil and bags of peaches were snatched from tables; I sigh as I pass quickly-paling melons at the market.
Catalunya is known for the spring calçotada in Valls, near Tarragona. Calçots are forced spring onions, which are grilled, then steamed, then dipped in Romesco—and eaten, as far as I can tell, with copious amounts of wine. Valls is in the same area, by the way, that is famous for the human towers—I don't know if there is a connection, but I like to think that there might be.
It may be late summer instead of early spring, and my green onions may be small and not nearly so sweet, but I wanted to take advantage of my homemade Romesco sauce.
On went the pot of pasta water. Into a very hot pan with a glug of olive oil went three bunches of green onions, darkest green parts cut off. After they were tossed and blackened and just starting to wilt, I took the pan off the heat and covered it—it may not be the traditional coals and newspaper, but it worked. Peeled and cut into mostaccioli-sized lengths, tossed with hot pasta, olive oil, and romesco loosened and warmed with cooking water, this was one of the most satisfying (and easiest) dinners I've eaten in weeks.
Pasta amb romesco i calçots (pasta with romesco sauce and green onions)
I used mostaccioli (unridged penne), but I think this sauce would also be great with fettucine—just leave the onions long and perhaps halve them lengthwise.
½ pound mostaccioli or penne rigate pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 bunches (about 2 dozen total) fresh green onions (scallions), tough, dark green parts removed
3 tablespoons romesco sauce
Fill a large pot with water for the pasta and set to boil; when boiling, add salt and cook the pasta to just al dente, about 10 minutes for penne.
Meanwhile, heat a heavy skillet on high heat. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil into the hot pan and add the onions, tossing well to coat. Let cook, uncovered, stirring every few minutes, until largely blackened and beginning to wilt, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
Place the romesco in a large bowl, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water, and stir to loosen; set aside.
Spread the onions out on a plate or board to cool slightly. Peel off the outer layer and trim the roots from each onion, then cut into two-inch lengths (or the approximate size of your pasta). Add to the romesco.
When the pasta is done cooking, drain and transfer to the bowl with the onions and sauce. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and toss well to combine. Adjust for salt as needed.
Serves 2 as a main course