Escalivada is a roasted vegetable dish traditionally from the regions of Catalunya and Aragón. Its name comes from a verb in Catalan meaning “to roast in the embers”. Escalivada is typically eaten on its own as an appetizer, but sometimes it can also accompany a main course of meat or sausages.
Escalivada is also quite typical in Valencia and Murcia although in many places outside Catalunya it often goes by different names. It is a simple dish with rural origins and is typically composed of red peppers, aubergines, onions and sometimes parboiled and peeled potatoes or salted cod – but the base ingredients of escalivada are definitely the aubergines and red peppers.
Aubergines, by the way, are also known as eggplants in American English – it doesn’t matter which name you call them, it’s the same fruit! Yes, an aubergine is a fruit, although it is eaten as a vegetable. It is usually served slightly warm or at room temperature with crusty bread, or to accompany meat or fish in warmer months, although it is suitable to eat your-round. It is best to eat escalivada the same day it is prepared.
By the way, did you known that peppers, also known as capsicum, nowadays cultivated worldwide for their chili pepper or bell pepper fruit, are originally native to the Americas? More correctly, Capsicum refers to the genus (in between “species” and “family” on the hierarchy of biological classification), within which we find numerous varieties of pepper – the most commonly known being bell peppers and chili peppers (including jalapeños). Did you also know that, strictly speaking, they are actually berries?
- 2 medium aubergines
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 medium onions
- 1 head of garlic
- 4 firm tomatoes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 or 2 tins of L’Escala anchovy fillets
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (or similar)
- some freshly chopped parsley leaves for garnish
- Spanish olives (optional)
- Heat the oven to 200º C
- Cut slits in the aubergines to prevent them splitting open as they cook.
- Place in a roasting tin with the whole red peppers, onions, tomatoes (if using) and garlic, coating them all well with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 45 minutes or until the skins blacken on the outside and soft to touch.
- You may need to remove the peppers (and tomatoes) before the aubergines.
- Remove the roasting tin from the oven and leave until everything is cool enough to handle.
- Carefully peel the skins of the aubergines, peppers, onions, and tomatoes and discard. Remove the pepper and aubergine seeds and discard.
- Cut the vegetables into strips.
- Finely chop most of the garlic except 2 or 3 cloves.
- Arrange in a serving dish.
- Mash the 2 or 3 cloves of garlic cloves and combine with a little bit of the olive oil and vinegar to make a dressing.
- Season dressing with salt and pepper and toss through the vegetables.
- Serve warm or allow to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours, as you prefer.
- Top with salted anchovies and some olives (optional).
- Sprinkle with some chopped parsley before serving.
In some variations roast potatoes may be served alongside the escalivada. To prepare the potatoes, clean the skins well but do not peel. It speeds things up to parboil them for a while before then wrapping them in tin foil for roasting in the oven. When cooked, season with a little salt and olive oil.
You can also cook the vegetables on a barbecue grill by wrapping them in tin foil and some people prefer the tin foil method in the oven too.