Now that the weather is heating up, it’s time to make escalivada. Mmmm. You absolutely can’t beat it – Mediterranean, healthy, fat-free, delicious, and perfect for preparing in advance. You can serve it as a salad or sidedish, warm or cold.
A lot of recipes mention onions and tomatoes, but I just do it with aubergines and red peppers.The Catalan word escalivar means to cook in ashes, which of course is the best and most scrumptious way to do the veggies. Failing a hearth or barbecue, to make enough for four people, pop two very large aubergines and and two very large red peppers on aluminium foil in a scorchingly hot oven and let them do until the skins are charred and blistered. When turning them, try not to pierce them (they will ooze, collapse, make a mess and be more difficult to peel later). When I had a virtually unregulatable gas oven, they would char rather well in a short time. With electric they take longer (try them on Autoclean! – and the fan helps.) Otherwise you can grill them or hold them with long tongs and turn them over and over in the gas flame. This is incredibly messy as you get burnt flakes all over the hob – the whole kitchen in fact.
When the veggies are done, wrap them straightaway in foil or newspaper and leave till cold. This makes them much easier to peel, although the peeling process can be very messy too, especially the peppers, as you get the seeds all over the place as well as bits of skin. I have seen a TV chef gently scrape the charred skin off a pepper with a (clean) scourer. (The Spanish word for this is estropajo, aka escobrite. Qué??? Ah… Scotchbrite.) You then cut them – the vegetables – into strips and lay them on a platter. You can top the escalivada with anchovies and black olives. Or hard boiled eggs, steamed and sliced potatoes, whatever. Then drizzle with olive oil and finely chopped garlic. I whizz a garlic clove and a bunch of parsley with olive oil in the pímer (minipimer or stick beater) – another trick I picked up from the TV3 chefs. You can keep this in a jar in the fridge door, and spoon it over all sorts of food.
Go for it!