I spent four months living in Barcelona as part of an educational exchange during University. It was a wonderful learning experience. But, more enjoyably, it was a wonderful eating experience. I fell in love with the array of ingredients on offer at markets like La Boqueria, with tapas-style dining, with indulgences like chocolate con churros. But the dish I loved most was pan con tomate, a very simple preparation of toasted bread with tomato. It is often served in restaurants instead of bread and butter like we are used to at home, or offered as an inexpensive tapa. In the summertime, when Ontario tomatoes are at their peak, this is a wonderful way to showcase fresh tomatoes (and you can just pretend you are sitting in the sun on La Rambla).
4 slices wholegrain artisan bread, toasted
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 medium tomatoes, ripe (see note on tomatoes below)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
There are so many tomato varieties. And with all the heirloom options that are being resurrected, the selection is only getting greater. You want to find a tomato that is nice and fleshy – not watery – or the tomato water will make the bread soggy. Look for vine-ripened or field tomatoes that are not too heavy when you pick them up. In a pinch you can certainly use roma (plum) tomatoes.
Cut the tomatoes in half. If there is a lot of water, shake some of it out over the sink.
Just before you are ready to serve, toast the bread. Immediately after you remove the bread from the toaster, wipe the cut side of the garlic clove across the entire surface of the toast. This will give a hint of garlic flavour.
Take a tomato half and rub the cut side across the toast, giving it some good pressure as you go to spread the tomato flesh onto the bread. You should be creating a light ‘paste’ of tomato. If my tomatoes are not quite ripe enough, I sometimes ‘cheat’ and use a box grater to create a tomato pulp that can be spread on the toast. Just watch your fingers as you grate the tomato.
Once each slice is dressed with tomato, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Top with salt and pepper.