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If you travel in Spain on a Spain culinary tour or cooking vacation you’re sure to see bread served with a side of tomato and a clove of garlic. If you don’t know about the fabulous “tomato bread” you might be at a loss how to proceed!
Pan con tomate (or “pa amb tomàquet” in Catalan) is a traditional Spanish way of eating freshly grilled bread smeared with garlic, fresh tomato, and drizzled with oil. You will find Spanish tomato bread throughout Spain, but it hails originally from Catalonia, and it is found everywhere there!
The first step is to grill or toast the bread – if you’re eating out on a cooking vacation in Spain, it will arrive already toasted – and then rub a clove of peeled garlic over it. The bread will be served with tomato on the side, either one tomato, a basket of them, or a bowl of grated tomato. If using a whole tomato, simply cut it in half and rub it over your bread. The tomatoes used for tomato bread are so ripe and juicy that they will amply coat the bread with tomato-y goodness. In fact, these tomatoes in the fresh markets are always found hanging in the stalls, since they are too ripe to keep in a bin. If served with a bowl of grated tomato, simply spread some on your bread. Drizzle with olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and it is perfection!
You’ll need a bread that is not too dense, with a lot of holes, similar in consistency to an Italian ciabatta or a French baguette. The important thing is the grilling – it should be crunchy enough on top to allow you to grate the garlic over it.
You can have pan con tomate by itself as a “tapa” or appetizer, or you can use it as a side during your meal. I’ve had it served to me for breakfast at local farmhouses with a side of jamon and manchego.
Where ever you are visiting in Spain, don’t be alarmed when you’re presented with these simple, unprepared ingredients. You now know what to do with them and you’ll love the result!
By Peg Kern
See our cooking vacations in Spain and try tomato bread yourself!
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