A bit of history...
The Xató is the main dish of Carnival and it has always been closely associated with wine-drinking. The ceremony of tapping the wine barrel consisted in inserting a small tap so that the wine could be drawn out. This was the sign for the festa to begin, and was celebrated with a special dish. The dish was made up of the salty ingredients, anchovy, tuna and salt cod, that were the usual fare in the farmer's pantry, and accompanied with winter salad leaves and some olives. It was enriched with a sauce, made using unmistakably Arabic techniques, that was commonly used among local farming people in more or less elaborate forms.
They did not have to look very far to find a name for the dish. Xató comes from “aixeta”, the word for tap. It seems appropriate for a town to return to its origins, take up the tradition again and celebrate by sharing it with others.
The Xató Festival - The Markets Festival
The Xató Festival and the Markets Festival will be held at the Mercat de Mar (the municipal market) on 29 November. This is a unique opportunity to discover and purchase all the products you need to make an authentic xató (salad of curly endive leaves, cod, anchovies and Arbequina olives, with a xató dressing made from roasted red peppers, nuts, garlic, olive oil and toasted bread), following the special Vilanova i la Geltrú recipe, and to try a wide variety of tapas made from the products habitually sold by the market’s stallholders. This festival aims to consolidate and showcase the special dishes and products used in the cuisine of Vilanova i la Geltrú, in the wonderful setting of the Mercat de Mar
The Markets Festival
The Markets Festival takes the market to citizens. Stallholders offer options outside their usual product range that imbue the typical activity of the market with a festive spirit, showcasing the added value that municipal markets have always had, and continue to have, in respect of other food retail outlets.
The stallholders open for business in order to celebrate both the Xató Festival and the Markets Festival. The Mercat de Mar (municipal market) is turned into a great festive venue complete with live music, where visitors can buy and try top-quality tapas made by the stallholders themselves using products from the sea and land.
Xató de Vilanova recipe (for 6 people):
Ingredients for the sauce: 1 - 2 medium-sized cloves of garlic, 36 roasted almonds, 12 roasted hazelnuts, 8 hot peppers scalded in water or macerated in wine, a fresh breadcrumb soaked in vinegar, oil to taste and salt.
Ingredients for the dish: 2 curly endive or escarole, 200 g of salt cod soaked to remove the salt and dried, 150 g of tuna soaked to remove the salt and dried, 18 fillets of anchovies, black olives and Arbequine olives.
Crush the cloves of garlic in a pestle and mortar with the salt, so that they do not fall out. Once they are well crushed, gradually add the almonds and hazelnuts until you have a smooth paste. Scrape out the inside of the hot peppers that have been scalded or macerated in wine and add this pulp to the mortar. Blend it in, then add the bread soaked in vinegar, slightly drained, and go on mixing. When it is ready keep on stirring slowly and gradually add the oil and the wine used to macerate the peppers until the sauce has the desired consistency.
Drain the escarole well and place it in a large salad dish. Add a little of the sauce, mix well, and put on the plates. Once on the plate, add the tuna, cod, and anchovies. Let each guest add a little more sauce to their own taste.