In Spain, springtime is welcomed with a calçotada, the annual flame-licked ritual of grilling calçots, a sort of sweet, tender spring onion, over an open fire. Savoy’s Peter Hoffman has imported the tradition to Soho, where he substitutes overwintered leeks (plants that have survived in the ground all winter to be harvested early in spring, available now at Yuno’s Farm stand at the Greenmarket). He serves them, in authentic Catalonian fashion, with pungent romesco sauce as the messy finger-food kickoff of a three-course feast. If you can’t make it to his May 2 calçotada, fire up your backyard grill and throw your own. Chilled rosé and plenty of hot towels strongly recommended.
Peter Hoffman’s Grilled Leeks With Romesco
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for Frying
2 small slices sourdough bread
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
2 large dried ancho chiles, soaked overnight and seeded
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, liquid reserved
1 tbsp. pimentón (available at Despaña Brand Foods)
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 or 3 bunches leeks
For Romesco: Heat half an inch of olive oil in a sauté pan and fry bread, browning both sides. (1) In a food processor, grind garlic, almonds, and bread. Process until fine. Add the anchos, tomatoes, and pimentón. Purée until smooth. Add the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and purée. If texture isn’t loose enough to work as a dip, add either water, drained tomato juice, or more lemon juice, depending on taste. Season with salt.
For Leeks: Clean leeks and (2) rub them with a bit of olive oil. (3) Grill outdoors over fairly high heat until they char and blacken considerably (2–3 minutes per side; thicker leeks will take longer). Pile leeks in a heap, and let rest 5 minutes to allow heat to penetrate. When they’ve cooled, peel back the charred outer layer and dip the soft hearts in the romesco sauce.