I have to admit that when I saw the price of propane jump up this summer there was a tiny part of me that was glad about it. Not because I wanted propane users to have a difficult time paying their home heating bills but because I saw the price of propane tanks, you know the kind you exchange outside the convenient store, go up, up, and up. I quietly hoped that this might lead some, those who would be in the market for a new grill this spring, to buy a charcoal version. I wanted this only for their own good, so that they could enjoy the smoky goodness of food cooked over real charcoal instead of a gas-fueled flame.
Sure, gas grills are convenient with their push-button igniters and their hand-dandy dials to adjust the heat; but they’ve striped away all the primal elements embodied in a charcoal grill – striking match against flint, feeding and starving the flame by adjusting the damper, like a backyard version of Aeolus, the Greek God of Wind. What little hunter-gatherer that is left in me is brought to the fore when grilling on my charcoal grill.
So, as you head to the home improvement stores this spring, take a look at the old-school grills. I make you this guarantee. The extra work it takes to light a match and the additional time required for the coals to get up to temperature will be well worth the time and effort. Over the years, I’ve probably offered up to my readers, 50 different recipes for grilled somethings or another. Every one of them, this one included, tastes better cooked over charcoal.
Whether I’ve convinced you of the virtues of charcoal grill or not, you may want to consider this recipe for charred spring onions once you do fire up your grill. The spring onion, or scallion is one of the earliest edibles that will emerge from the soil in much of the U.S., and even if you want to make these before they appear in your garden or at the farmers market, you can always find them at the grocery store.
Paired with this sauce, made from roasted almonds and red bell peppers, charred scallions and romesco has been a rite of spring in Spain for generations and just maybe it will become a rite of passage in my neck of the woods. The delicate onions cook quickly over the grill so they are a great side dish to throw on just as the main course is finishing up. The outer layers of the onion will char and can be peeled away leaving sweet smoky scallion. The romesco has the consistence of a paste and it can be used as a dip for nearly anything.
This recipe will serve about four and can easily be doubled. You may even want to triple or quadruple the romesco, as it will keep well in the fridge for several days.
Charred Scallions with Romesco
- 12 scallions, washed with the tops and bottoms trimmed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher Salt
- Cracked Black Pepper
- 1/2 cup roasted almonds
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 12-ounce jar or roasted red pepper, drained and patted dr
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients for the romesco and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to serving bowl cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. This can be made a day ahead.
Preheat grill to high heat. Place the scallions on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them on the grill going the opposite direction as the grates to prevent them from falling through. Move them about and turn as needed so that all sides begin to char a bit, not all over, but in spots. Grill for three to five minutes. Remove from the grill and let set for five minutes. When serving, instruct guests that they can remove the charred outer layers if desired. Serve on a platter, along with the romesco.
Adapted from a a column originally published in B Magazine, March 2014