Catalan Tomato Bread
- SERVINGS: 4
Steven Raichlen's first meal in Barcelona, at the venerable Los Caracoles restaurant in the Barri Gotic (medieval quarter), began with this appetizer. Scarcely a day went by during his stay when he wasn't served some variation of pa amb tomàquet, as the specialty is known locally.
This recipe offers irrefutable proof that the best dishes are often the simplest. At its most rudimentary, pa amb tomàquet consists of a grilled slice of bread rubbed with tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. Like all simple dishes, it demands flawless ingredients: crusty country-style bread, soft ripe tomatoes and fragrant olive oil. Not everyone in Catalonia uses garlic, so he has made it optional.
There are two ways to serve pa amb tomàquet. The first is to provide guests with garlic cloves, halved tomatoes, a cruet of oil and bowl of salt, and let them do the work. The second is for the cook to do the rubbing and drizzling.
- 8 large slices country-style bread, about 1/2 inch thick
- 4 garlic cloves (optional)
- 2 very ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise
- Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Light a grill. When the fire is medium hot, grill the bread for 2 minutes per side, or until nicely browned and crisp.
- Give each diner a garlic clove and half a tomato. Have them rub their toast with the garlic, then with the cut tomato. (The idea is to apply a thin film of tomato on the bread.) Then they can drizzle their toast with olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and eat.
Choose a light-bodied Trappist ale, such as Orval from Belgium, to balance the sweet tomato flavor.