Photo by Ryan Stiner
Olive oil cookery sure has come a long way in this country. Whereas we all used to buy garlic bread in those foil sealed bags, most everyone around knows all about bruschetta--the simple Italian recipe for toasting country bread, rubbing it with a clove of garlic, putting on lots of good olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt to seal the deal.
By contrast, hardly anyone's heard of Pa amb Tomaquet. Which is too bad because, especially right now as I write, this is the dish that I--and you, too, if you love bread, oil, and tomatoes--want to be making most every single day. Seriously, I really love this stuff. It's so simple and so good.
Every year for the past 20 years we have featured Spanish food, and I have it on my mind. And when we're getting all those really great tomatoes...well, there's something very rewarding about rubbing good local fresh garlic into the bread, and then, while it's still hot, setting out to softly but assertively smash half of a good tomato onto it. Finally, you'll pour on the oil and sprinkle a little sea salt on top.
You can smell the perfume of the oil in the air (sorry to be so poetic, but it's true) when it hits the hot bread. If you go to most any restaurant in Barcelona this is one of the first things you're going to be served.
To make it, just cut thick slices of good country bread (say Farm, Rustic Italian, or Pain de Montagne) and toast or grill them 'til they're lightly brown. Rub a cut clove of garlic along the surface of the bread. Cut a tomato in half and rub it right into the bread--the bread should absorb much of the tomato's juice.
In their lust for the delicious flavor of this dish, some Spaniards dress both sides of the bread, so don't hold back. Pour on plenty of extra virgin olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt, and eat it while it's hot.
Pa amb Tomaquet can be topped with slices of Iberico ham or really good anchovies. Or just toss on the outer flesh of the tomato that hasn't been rubbed into the bread and eat it that way. You won't go wrong. If you're entertaining you can use different colored tomatoes and serve slices of yellow, red and green tomatoes atop the toast, too.
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