Escalivada is a simple and delicious Catalan side or tapas dish of grilled or roasted vegetables. You don't need many ingredients and it's easy to make, but the result is so tasty and silky smooth. Perfect on bread, with fish and much more.
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While there are some dishes you will find across Spain, it's also a country full of regional cuisine. Many inland areas have heartier dishes, often heavily pork-based. Coastal regions tend to include a lot of seafood.
Maybe I'm biased having lived there, but I find Catalan cuisine to be one of the most interesting, in part because it incorporates such a range. There's seafood, pork products, game and vegetable dishes.
There's the Catalan equivalent of surf and turf ("mar i muntanya", literally sea and mountains) and lots of delicious stews and sauces like romesco sauce and aioli. As I say, a lot of variety.
This dish is very much a celebration of vegetables that are in abundance during summer in the region. It's a simple dish, but one that brings out the vegetables' flavors. The combination not only has a range of colors, but a mix of gently sweet and more savory flavors that work so well.
Where does the name escalivada come from?
Escalivada, sometimes written as escalibada in Spanish, comes from the Catalan word "escalivar" which means to cook in the embers and ashes. Traditionally, you roast the vegetables slowly in the embers of the fire which adds that wonderful smokey flavor.
It's a traditional dish from rural communities in Catalunya as well as neighboring Aragon, Valencia and Murcia.
While grilling them slowly on the fire is a great way to get all that flavor, you can also do a pretty close alternative indoors, either making use of a gas stove or by roasting in the oven. True, you might not quite get that smokiness, but you still plenty of flavor and the lovely texture.
Tips for making this dish
The main things to keep in mind when you make this is don't rush it, and use good quality ingredients. You don't use all that many, so you are relying on them having a good flavor and to let that flavor shine. Don't skimp on the olive oil, either, for the same reason.
You can leave the skin on or remove it form the onion, as you prefer - either way you will peel the outer layer after cooking. I removed it thinking it would help the oil flavor go into the flesh a little more but I'm not sure it made a difference. Leave the garlic on the casing so it doesn't dry out.
Make sure you rub some oil all over all of the vegetables to both help them char and to add a little flavor. You'll also add more later (this is Spanish cooking, after all!).
Make sure you give the vegetables plenty of time to cook until they you can feel they are soft. Then, place the pepper and eggplant in a plastic bag to help the steam loosen the skins.
Once all of the vegetables are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and remove the seeds. You don't have to remove the tomato or eggplant seeds, but I find the tomato seeds tend to fall out anyway, and the texture (and color) of the eggplant is better without the seeds.
Once you have all the seeds and skin off, slice the vegetables into strips. You can also cut the onions as rings, but I find slices works better to all be similar shape.
Then, lay all of the vegetables on a plate - you can either group them in the type of vegetable or alternate stripes of different ones. Finally, mash the roasted garlic, mix with the oil and drizzle over.
How to serve escalivada
You can serve escalivada cold, warm or at room temperature, as you prefer. I think it probably works best at room temperature but it depends a little what you are serving it with.
You can serve this as a tapas dish, alongside various other items (some ideas below, plus lots more in my list of traditional tapas) or simply with some bread. It's really tasty on top of toast as a snack. You can also serve it as a side dish or topping to other dishes such as with fish.
Escalivada is a simple Catalan roasted vegetables dish that really lets the flavors of these summer produce shine. They are cooked slowly until meltingly tender and all their natural sweetness comes out. Delicious any way you choose to enjoy it.
Try these other savory Spanish dishes:
- Chorizo al vino tinto (chorizo in red wine)
- Spanish cheese board (complete with pan con tomate, tomato bread)
- Catalan coca (Spanish pizza)
- Plus get more Spanish recipes in the archives.
Escalivada - Catalan roasted vegetables
- 14 oz eggplant aubergine, approx (14oz is 1 medium)
- 8 oz red pepper approx (8oz is 1 medium pepper)
- 1 onion medium
- 1 tomato (relatively large, or 2 if small-medium)
- 1 clove garlic (don't remove skin)
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (or a little more as needed)
- ½ teaspoon wine vinegar (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Prick the skin of the eggplant/aubergine and pepper with the tip of a sharp knife in a few places. If you like, peel the skin of the onion but you can also leave it on.
- Place the eggplant, pepper, onion, tomato, and unpeeled garlic clove in a roasting dish or on a baking sheet. Drizzle over a little olive oil (around ½ tbsp) and rub all over the skins. Place the dish in the oven and roast for around one hour until all the vegetables are really soft and tender. If needed, turn them part way through roasting to help char slightly on other side.
- Carefully remove the eggplant and pepper from the dish and place inside a large plastic freezer bag. Loosely close up and leave to steam in the bag to loosen the skin.
- Meanwhile, let the other vegetables cool enough to handle then remove the garlic from the skin and mash into the remaining olive oil, along with the vinegar if using.
- Peel the tomato and cut into medium-thick strips/slices - you can leave the seeds in if you like, but you may want to remove for a more even texture and to avoid too many juices. Peel the onion and slice thinly (or cut into rings if you prefer).
- Remove the pepper and eggplant from the bag once cool and peel off the skin. Remove the stem and seeds from the pepper then cut the flesh into strips. Peel the eggplant into strips - you don't have to remove the seeds but I find the texture and color of the dish is nicer without the large chunks.
- Lay all of the vegetables on a plate, either grouped together or in alternating stripes. Drizzle over the garlic oil and serve.
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