Pan con Tomate is a traditional Catalonian dish that’s essentially just mashed or grated tomatoes on toast. It’s like bruschetta, except less 1997 and without as many variations. What makes it special is that in parts of Spain it’s served for breakfast, which is brilliant. I’ve never been one for a sugar spike first thing in the morning, so jam on toast has never appealed to me. Tomatoes, garlic and olive oil on the other hand? Oh, that’s hearties. Especially if it’s made with luscious, freshly picked tomatoes.
The key is to use bread with a good, crisp crust and an airy, wide crumb like a ciabatta. Slice the bread to about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and you won’t have to worry about the tomato spilling through the holes in the bread. Instead, the air holes will act as cups, holding the tomatoey, olive-oily goodness. Also, I like to remove the seeds from the tomatoes to avoid a flood of excess tomato juice.
The most important thing to remember with Pan con Tomate is that you’ll get the best result with the freshest ingredients. Stale supermarket bread, mealy winter beefsteak tomatoes and garlic shipped from East Overshoe are just not going to give you the correct result. Fortunately we still have another good couple months of farmer’s market season. Tomatoes are at their best at the moment, so get ‘em while you can. Also, keep an eye out at your farmer’s market for locally grown garlic. It’ll knock your flip-flops off.
A note on how I learned about this fantastic dish: My husband and I traveled to Spain this past spring and we had an absolute blast. We traveled from Salou (near Barcelona) to Denia (near Valencia) to Madrid. While we were in Catalonia, we had the pleasure of dining at a small restaurant in Cambrils called la Cua Curta and the owner couldn’t have been nicer. Cambrils is a somewhat touristy beach town, but la Cua Curta, by contrast, is a wonderfully authentic local restaurant. The owner came over and chatted with us for a bit, introducing us to his local cuisine. It was fantastic. He brought out a plate of Pan con Tomate for us to try, and described it as a typical Catalonian snack. As we were leaving, he gave us a bottle of local olive oil as a gift. Such a nice person. If you’re reading this, when we return to Cambrils sometime, we’ll bring you a bottle of maple syrup!
Pan con Tomate – serves 2-4
4 small or 2 medium-sized fresh tomatoes
4 slices of fresh ciabatta or similar bread
1 clove garlic
a drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon)
salt to taste (optional)
Remove the stems from the tomatoes and slice in half horizontally. Remove the seeds by severing the globs where they attach to the center of the tomato and spooning them out of each section.
Dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl. Mash with a fork.
Slice the bread to about 3/4-1 inch thick, and toast each piece either in a toaster, or in an oven at 400 degrees for 7-10 minutes until just barely golden.
Lightly smash the garlic clove and remove the peel. Cut in half and use it to rub each piece of toast.
Spoon the mashed tomato onto each garlic-rubbed piece of toast. Gently press the tomato into the toast.
Drizzle each piece with olive oil.
For breakfast, serve with café con leche and a Spanish newspaper. Or enjoy for a lovely afternoon snack.