My favorite thing about Spain is the tapas culture. By far. And I don’t mean sitting down and ordering a bunch of small “share” plates as we would here in a tapas restaurant in the U.S. What I love about Spain’s tapas culture is the fact that you can sit down literally anywhere, any time of day, order a beer, and they automatically bring you a traditional spanish tapa to nibble on. Then you order your second round of drinks, and they bring you a different tapa to try– no request necessary. This will, of course, go on for as long as you sit there and drink, and it is brilliant. I suppose it is a bit analogous to chips and salsa with our tex-mex, yet it’s different. Each tapa is different and unique– after a few days in Spain, you’ll find yourself critiquing the bar or restaurant based on the quality of the tapas they bring you.
I could go on for days about my love for tapas, but I wanted to share a very, very simple tapa dish that I saw quite often: Pan con Tomate or tomato bread. We’ve all probably had sliced tomato on a baguette countless times before, but I had never seen this specific recipe prior to our trip to Spain. In Barcelona, it was brought out as a tapa in probably two out of three bars or restaurants.
The recipe is so simple, it’ll become one of your new go-to appetizers or a side to a salad. You’re going to need the following ingredients (most of which you may already have handy):
1. A crusty, rustic bread of your choosing
2. Fresh, very ripe tomatoes – I used Roma tomatoes
3. Good olive oil
4. Sea salt
5. Fresh garlic – 1 or 2 cloves
I toasted a few slices of my bread (a rustic sourdough) in my toaster oven for about 4 minutes or until golden brown. You can also grill the slices in a grill pan, if you have one. They don’t need to become dark brown– just toasted enough to be crispy to the touch. Once toasted, I sliced a garlic clove in half and rubbed the clove directly onto each slice of bread, followed by a drizzle of olive oil. Depending on your taste for garlic, you can rub as much or as little as you like. I then sliced the tomatoes in half and rubbed each half directly onto a piece of toast. This is why you will want to find tomatoes that are very ripe– a softer tomato will scrape a lot easier onto the toast (and it’ll taste SO much better). I’ve also seen a couple restaurants use a tomato puree, instead of rubbing the tomato onto the toast. I honestly liked it both ways, but this version requires much less of a mess in the kitchen (if you want to try the puree, use the same ingredients and toss into a food processor).
After you’ve rubbed a tomato onto each slice, sprinkle some sea salt and you’re done. Now, if only it wasn’t swimsuit season… then I’d be making these babies every night with a glass of vino, some manchego cheese, and marinated olives. Salud!