During a Spanish cooking class recently, Chef Camilla and I made a dish that blew my mind and took me straight to Catalonia. It’s called Xató (pronounced cha-toe). It’s a typical dish from Catalonia made with almonds, hazelnuts, bread, garlic, roasted tomato and peppers, sherry vinegar and copious amounts of olive oil. You mash everything together with a mortar and pestle, and then serve it with grilled bread rubbed with garlic and a salad typically made with curly endive, Spanish olives, anchovies, salt cod or tuna. The Xató sauce can be used as a salad dressing or just dip the bread in it and enjoy with every bite. If you google it, there are lots of different variations, and every time I make Xató, it turns out slightly different. This time, I made the salad with chorizo stuffed Spanish olives, arugula and an incredible Spanish tuna that I got from an amazing Spanish store down the street (I’m very lucky to have that store so close!) I splurged…the can of Spanish tuna was $14, but totally worth it, without a doubt it was the best tuna I have ever had in my life! If you can find a Spanish store near you, I would recommend treating yourself to some good olives, tuna and sherry vinegar. Also, The day after making Xató in class, I ran out and bought a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, you should get one because a food processor won’t do this justice. I have also dropped a few hints to my boyfriend about having a mortar and pestle that is the size of the kitchen sink (Xató for everyone!), so we’ll see what happens with that…
You will need:
- 1/3 cup roasted almonds
- 1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 5-10 garlic cloves
- Sherry vinegar
- Good bread
- Endive or arugula
- Spanish olives
- Good tuna packed in olive oil, Spanish if possible
- Olive oil, lots and lots of olive oil
- First, turn on your broiler and char the red bell pepper on all sides until it is blackened. Put the pepper in a bowl and cover to let steam for 20 minutes.
- In a 375° oven, roast 2 medium tomatoes and 5-10 garlic cloves until the skin on the tomatoes has wrinkled and split and the garlic is soft. I like to put my garlic in a little foil packet with some olive oil and salt.
- If you have bought non-roasted almonds or hazelnuts, you can pop them in the oven to roast with the tomatoes and garlic for 5-8 minutes.
- Tear up a piece of good bread and put in a bowl. Pour some of the sherry vinegar on it to soak. I probably use about ¼ cup of sherry vinegar.
- Once the tomatoes and garlic have roasted, remove from the oven and let cool. When cooled, peel the skin off the tomatoes and also peel the charred skin off the bell pepper.
Time to start mashing…
- Put your roasted almonds and hazelnuts in your mortar and pestle and start crushing. If you have a small mortar and pestle, you may want to divide your ingredients in half and make two batches.
- When the nuts have been roughly crushed, add the tomatoes and the bell pepper. Continue mashing everything together.
- Add the roasted garlic and the sherry-soaked bread. Continue mashing everything together.
- Season with salt and pepper and drizzle in about ¼ cup of olive oil. Continue mashing everything until the olive oil is incorporated.
- Add in another ¼ cup of olive oil and continue mashing until incorporated.
– The goal is to have a thick, and slightly chunky sauce. That’s the beauty of making Xató with a mortar and pestle, you get a rustic texture that a food processor just can’t give you.
– At this point, you can taste for seasoning. Maybe add another splash of sherry vinegar, another hit of salt or more olive oil. It’s up to you and what you want the overall consistency to be.
– Once you have finished mashing the Xató, set aside and start making the salad. I tossed a bunch of arugula with the chorizo stuffed Spanish olives and drizzled with a little olive oil and sherry vinegar.
– Open the tuna and drain slightly. Chunk the tuna onto the salad.
– Grill up a few pieces of your good bread and rub lightly with a peeled garlic clove for extra flavor. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and serve alongside the salad.
– I spoon some of the Xató onto my salad and also dip my grilled bread in it. It’s so delicious, you could eat it by the spoonful!
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. It is uniquely delicious and fun to make. Also, there is something to be said about working with a mortar and pestle, it makes me feel like a professional bad ass!