For tomato season: Catalonia's pa amb tomàquet

In Spain's Catalonia, a typical snack is pa amb tomaquet -- toast rubbed with a tomato

Now that tomato season is here and my tomatoes are finally coming in, I'm enjoying pa amb tomàquet —bread with tomato—almost every night. I fell in love with the snack when I spent a lot of time in Barcelona in the late '80s. I ate it often, too, when I was working with Marimar Torres on her 1992 book “The Catalan Country Kitchen.”  

Catalan restaurateur Lluis Cruañas once told me, “in Catalunya the first thing you taste after the baby bottle is pa amb tomàquet.” According to Torres, who grew up at her family’s wine estate in Penedes (Catalonia), ”It is eaten as a tapa, as an after-school snack, as part of a lunch, a light supper, or a sandwich—we even love it in the morning as part of a hearty breakfast before skiing.”

All you need is a ripe tomato, good country bread and some salt-cured anchovies or high-quality oil-packed filets. For pa amb tomàquet, you want bread with a firm, but open texture. A baguette split lengthwise and cut into segments works fine.

Toast the bread lightly on both sides. If you like, rub a garlic clove cut in half lengthwise over the toast until it disappears into the crumb. Cut a ripe tomato in half and rub it, cut-side down, into the bread, as Torres puts it, “squeeze the tomato so that not only the juice and seeds ooze into the bread but also some pulp. Only the skin should be left.” You’ll need half a tomato for each slice of bread.

Drizzle with fruity olive oil (Catalan if possible) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Top with an anchovy if you like -- and I do, very much. 

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