Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pan con tomate: A simple, tasty and healthy snack with bread and tomatoes

I have recently been living in Barcelona, Spain for a while and absorbing the rich food culture of the Catalonia region. Here, one of the simplest and famous dishes—using basic ingredients such as toasted bread, olive oil, ripe tomatoes, garlic and salt—is the well-loved pa amb tomaquet. In other parts of Spain it is known as pan con tomate or pan a la Catalana. It can be served as a tapa (snack) or to accompany a meal.

Although I had tasted pa amb tomaquet on trips to Spain before, the first time I had actually seen it made was in my own apartment in New York City when my Catalonian friends were visiting and cooked up a traditional Catalonian meal. I saw them take a bunch of small, vine-ripened tomatoes, cut them in half, rub them on the bread, and then throw the pieces away! I was a bit horrified at what seemed to be a waste, but years later, as I’m living in Catalonia and I prepare the snack for my guests, they look at me the same way. But the truth is, if you have the right tomatoes, you will use the whole thing. Then you will understand that the trick is to have super ripe tomatoes and get your hands really messy to get all the juices out.

This bread with tomato can be served alone or used as a basis for making a sandwich by adding manchego cheese, Spanish ham or prosciutto, anchovies or anything else on top. For my toddler daughter, it makes a tasty, healthy snack (I sometimes omit the garlic). I like to eat pa amb tomaquet for breakfast along with my café con leche.

4 thick slices rustic-style bread, toasted lightly
1 fat garlic clove, halved
Olinda Ridge extra virgin olive oil
1 large super-ripe tomato, halved (preferably vine-ripened or homegrown)
Sea salt


Toast the slices of bread lightly on both sides. Halve the garlic and rub the cut ends over each slice of bread. Slice the ripe tomatoes in half across the middle and rub the cut side generously onto each slice until you are practically left with the skin. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil liberally, and sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top.


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