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Tomato-Rubbed Bread

Tomato-Rubbed Bread
Bread and tomato—how something so simple and apparently artless could have come to such importance is one of the mysteries of Catalan food. More than just a dish, tomato-rubbed bread, or pa amb tomàquet, is a sign of national identity. Although it can be served year-round, it is particularly good in summer, when tomatoes are ripe, sweet and full of color, and in winter, when fresh olive oil is running off the presses and still has its fruity taste and golden color. Pa amb tomàquet makes a brilliant party food when served with salamis, pâtés and cheeses.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ciabatta or 8 slices coarse country white bread,
     preferably sourdough, about 1⁄2 lb. total
  • 4 garlic cloves, halved (optional)
  • 4 small, ripe tomatoes, about 1⁄3 lb. total
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Salt, to taste

Directions:

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill, preheat a gas grill to high or preheat a broiler.

If using ciabatta, slice it crosswise into 4 to 6 pieces, then cut each piece in half horizontally. Place the bread on the grill rack or on a baking sheet. Grill or broil, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

While the toasts are still warm, rub them on one side with the cut sides of the garlic halves. Cut each tomato in half. Rub the cut sides of the tomato halves on top of the toasts until only the skins are left, then discard the skins. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. If using sliced sourdough, cut the toasts in half. Pile up all the toasts on a serving platter or in a shallow bowl and serve.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Barcelona, by Paul Richardson (Oxmoor House, 2004).