This pan con tomate (literally “bread with tomato”) recipe officially makes me a liar. Not a conniving, deceitful, malicious kind of liar. But a silly sort of “I should know better” liar. Because I should never have made the bold statement, two posts ago, that I’m not the biggest tomato fan.
See, quite inadvertently I assure you, I then preceded to post three recipes (stuffed tomatoes, Greek green beans, and today’s post) in a row in which tomatoes feature quite prominently. It’s kinda like “never say never”. You just know that once said, you will have to eat those words. Turns out, I actually love tomatoes in these three recipes.
Bread with tomato is a rustic Catalan staple, frequently consumed as a snack or a tapa. According to Wiki, it is a relatively new addition to the regional cuisine (1800’s), and was probably a result of an abundant tomato harvest, coupled with the need to spruce up stale bread.
One of my maternal great-grandmothers was from Spain, so I like to think I am channeling a little bit of her with this basic but beautiful recipe. By basic, I mean simple. It takes genius to take fresh, simple ingredients and turn them into something you “oooh” and “ahhhh” over. Don’t you think? This bread with tomato dish serves as proof.
Steve and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary the first week of August. And our younger son, Sam, treated us to dinner in one of our favorite little eating establishments, Cafe Bink. We opted for their tasting menu that night, and the starter was pan con tomate. And let me tell you, the bread was not stale, it was beautifully charred. The dish was so delicious, it inspired me to share this bread with tomato recipe with you.
By the way…my sometimes-picky Sam LOVED IT!
Time to make some bread with tomato
Not much to it, huh? But don’t be fooled. This recipe delivers on both simplicity and a memorably bold taste.
Start by grating two large, ripe tomatoes, cut into halves, into a small-mesh strainer, placed over a bowl for draining. Rotate the tomato halves every couple of sweeps down the grater, shredding all the flesh down to the skin. Then discard the skin.
Allow the tomato pulp to drain for about 30 minutes or so.
The bowl will collect a relatively large amount of tomato water. About 6-8 ounces or so. You can discard it, reserve it for a different use, or do what I did. Drink it. It tastes like a beautifully fresh tomato juice without the pulp. It was delicious! (Go figure, I LOVE tomato juice!)
Once drained, season the tomato pulp with olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper to taste.
Traditional recipes call for garlic rubbed over the toasted bread only. I like a little bit more garlic taste, so I take half a garlic clove and I add it to the tomato pulp using a microplane grater. But you can skip garlic in the pulp, if you prefer.
After the tomato pulp is seasoned, cut the ciabatta loaf into two long halves, and place on a grill (cut side down) or in the oven in broiler mode (cut side up) until the bread gets a beautifully charred look, without developing a black, burned aspect. About 1 minute or so if broiling. I know it looks dark, but the charring adds to the flavor profile. Trust me.
Then brush the other garlic half over the grilled bread tops, covering the entire surface.
Finally, spread the seasoned tomato paste over the garlic-rubbed grilled bread.
Cut it into 2-inch or so strips, garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley, drizzle with some additional olive oil (optional), and serve immediately.
These flavors are HUGE! Someone in Spain in the 1800’s knew what they were doing!
Bread with tomato can be served as is, or with thin slices of Serrano ham (not so easily found in non-specialized stores), or with whole, canned sardines (not so popular in the US). At Cafe Bink, we had it with thin slices of Serrano ham, served on the side. But I assure you, it is INCREDIBLE on its own as a starter or tapa contribution.
The chewy bite of fresh bread with a beautiful top char, layered with sweet, savory, salty, tangy, seasoned tomato pulp…Say no more. Life is good.
Nothing simple about that taste. AMAZING!
Try it and see!
Pan con Tomate (Spanish Grilled Bread with Tomato)
- 1 fresh loaf ciabatta bread
- 2 large ripe quality tomatoes (9 to 10-ounce)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 clove large garlic cut in half, divided
- Fresh cracked pepper
- Start by grating two large, ripe tomatoes, cut into halves, into a small-mesh strainer, placed over a bowl for draining. Rotate the tomato halves every so many sweeps while grating, shredding all the flesh down to the skin. Then discard the skin.
- Allow the tomato pulp to drain for about 30 minutes or so.
- The drainage bowl will collect a relatively large amount of tomato water. About 6-8 ounces. Discard it, reserve it for a different use, or drink it.
- Once drained, season the tomato pulp with olive oil, salt, and cracked black pepper to taste.
- (Optional) for a bigger garlic taste, add half the garlic to the tomato paste by means of a microplane.
- After the tomato pulp is seasoned, cut the ciabatta loaf into two long halves and place it on a grill or in the oven in broiler mode. Grill until the bread achieves a beautifully charred look, without developing a black, burned aspect. About 1 minute or so under the broiler.
- Then brush one half of the garlic over the grilled top of the bread halves, covering the entire surfaces.
- Spread the seasoned tomato paste over the garlic-rubbed grilled bread.
- Cut it into 2-inch or so strips, garnish with fresh chopped Italian parsley, drizzle with olive oil (optional) and serve immediately.