A country’s cuisine is its landscape in a cooking pot.
So said Spanish writer Joseph Pla. Here in Nebraska, it’s the height of summer and the local Farmers Markets are bursting with bright, flavorful produce. The sheer diversity of the vegetables, fruits and meats available remind me of cuisine I encountered during a two-week trip to Spain in 2011.
There’s no place where Pla’s words ring more true that Catalonia, in Spain’s most eastern culinary region. Catalonia’s most simple dish is Pan Con Tomate (Tomato Bread), a combination of charred bread with tomato and olive oil.
The tomato came to Spain from America in the 18th century. Though Pa Amb Tomaquet (Catalan spelling) evokes nostalgia for Catalonians, the dish has likely only been a part of the culinary repertoire since the mid-19th century.
Tomato Bread was a staple of our trip. Many restaurants would bring the grilled bread and tomatoes to the table separately and then prepare the tomato bread tableside. It was also common to find the bread topped with a host of different ingredients, including local cheeses, hams, sausages and seafood.
The centerpiece of Tomato Bread is, not surprisingly, the bread. In Spain, tomato bread is often made from a large, round country loaf. For my version, I used a loaf of my favorite locally made baguette. Any crusty, European-style bread will work beautifully.
You can prepare tomato bread in a few different ways. One of the easiest is to cut a ripe tomato in half, rub it generously over a slice of crusty bread and drizzle with olive oil. I absolutely love that style of Pan Con Tomate, but I wanted to kick it up with some spicy Spanish chorizo.
Chorizo can be either a fresh or smoked, fermented and cured smoked sausage. Spanish chorizo differs vastly from its fresh Mexican counterpart. Made of pork, pork fat and smoked paprika, Spanish chorizo can be either sweet (mild) or spicy (picante) and is often dry cured. One of the most popular brands of chorizo available in the United States is Palacios. The sausage is free from nitrates and nitrites and comes fully dry-cured and ready to eat. Palacios chorizo can be found in your local gourmet store (I had no problem finding it in Lincoln, Nebraska) or can be purchased online at Amazon. I also recommend the chorizo available at online Spanish food retailer, La Tienda.
For my kicked up version, I charred slices of baguette over a hot grill. While the bread was on the fire, I grated fresh Farmers Market tomatoes with a box grater. I rubbed the slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic and spooned over the fresh tomato. Sliced Spanish chorizo, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt were the finishing touches.
Tomato Bread is phenomenal on its own as a snack, appetizer or tapa. (Try it with sliced avocado for an international take on avocado toast.) It also pairs well with grilled meats, Spanish tortilla, or soups, such as Gazpacho. Despite its simplicity, Pan Con Tomate offers seemingly endless flavor possibilities.
- 1 tomato, vine-ripened or beefsteak, cut in half
- ½ loaf of baguette or crusty bread (about 8 slices)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, cut in half
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced
- Sea salt
- Grate tomato with a box grater. Discard skin and carefully drain away excess liquid.
- Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and char slightly under a broiler or over an oiled grill, about 1 minute.
- Rub bread with a cut clove of garlic.
- Top with tomato puree and sliced chorizo. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Serve immediately.
- You may also top Tomato Bread with Serrano ham, tuna, cheese or fresh sliced avocado.
If you make this version of Pan Con Tomate, be sure to post a photo and tag it with #lexibites.