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Grilled Bread with Ripe Tomatoes and Olive Oil

During tomato season, Spanish cooks prepare this simple dish of juicy ripe tomatoes, fragrant oil and country bread. If possible, seek out Spanish air-cured serrano ham for the most traditional flavor, although Italian prosciutto or French Bayonne ham can be substituted. Prepare this dish when you are grilling other foods. You can toast the bread under a broiler, but grilling gives it the best flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 slices coarse country bread, each about
      3/4 inch thick
  • 3 very ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the optional garnishes:

  • 1/2 cup green or black brine-cured olives, pitted
      and slivered
  • 6 paper-thin slices serrano ham
  • 12 paper-thin slices manchego cheese

Directions:

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill.

In a mortar, combine the garlic and salt. Mash together with a pestle to form a paste. Mix in the olive oil.

Place the bread slices on the grill rack 4 to 5 inches from the fire and grill, turning once, until golden brown, 30 to 60 seconds per side. Transfer the bread slices to a platter.

Cupping a tomato half in your palm, rub it over the top sides of 2 pieces of toast, squeezing slightly to leave a smear of pulp, seeds and juice on the surface. Repeat with the remaining tomato halves and bread. Drizzle the olive oil-garlic mixture evenly over the bread slices and sprinkle with pepper. Serve immediately with the garnishes arranged on top, if desired.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Small Plates, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1998).