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How to Make Escalivada (Catalan Roasted Vegetables)

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If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: Associate Editor Marian Bull shares a new kind of roasted vegetable: soft, oil-marinated escalivada, from Spain.

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Escalivada

Meet escalivada.

It is soft and slinky, a nightgown of a vegetable dish. When served it looks like it’s laying down with no plans to get up, like Goya’s Maja Vestida. (Or, better, her naked counterpart.)

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I first ate it when staying with a friend’s family in their Barcelona apartment, a very “help-yourself-to-anything-and-we-mean-it” sort of place, where I was made to feel at home after months of feeling homeless, possessions strapped to my back like a snail. As we searched for pre-dinner snacks to pair with our wine, my hostess pulled a baking dish out of the fridge that held roasted peppers and onions and eggplant, swimming in oil, brightened with sherry vinegar. Escalivada. 

Find someone with a Spanish accent to say it for you; there's no better incentive to make it.

Escalivada

Escalivada is the Catalan answer to ratatouille -- just don’t tell them that because they wouldn’t want anyone else to claim credit for this beautifulness. You can’t blame them.

The process of serving it is lazy and lethargic, too. When you pick up a slack piece of pepper or eggplant it dangles, slick with oil, ready to lay back down. Fork it onto a piece of bread and it folds and twirls onto itself, all effortless and sultry.

It’s a pretty low-maintenance situation all around: Rub your vegetables with oil and salt, then roast them until they collapse -- I wrap them in foil, but you can skip that bit if you like. (Traditionally, they're roasted in coals, and get super smoky; give this a try if your grill is already hot.) Peel off their skins, slice, drown in oil, and splash with vinegar. Bueno, now you have escalivada. Serve it at whatever temperature it happens to be when you decide to eat -- it's good hot, cold, and all the places in between.

Escalivada

After Eric took these photos, he and Kenzi and I sat at their table at 6 PM on a Sunday night, looking over their little Brooklyn fire escape, piling it together with bread and cheese, plunking ice cubes into glasses of Rioja, only realizing that we were having a dinner party once we were in it. Before the eggplant and peppers are gone, before the Dark Times come, before you lose the need for ice cubes in anything, I urge you to do the same.

Escalivada

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer or side dish

2 bell peppers (I like one red and one yellow)
1 medium eggplant (look for a firm one with taut skin)
1 small onion
Olive oil (about 1/2 cup or so)
Salt
Sherry vinegar
Bread, for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran


Tags: vegetables, spanish, vegetarian, vegan, weird goya references, special diets, bueno, peppers, eggplant, onions, oil