Grilled bread rubbed with cloves and garlic and juicy, ripe summer tomatoes is drilled with grassy olive oil and dusted with flaked sea salt. Best enjoyed outside with a glass of Spanish rioja. A super simple dinner, or appetizer, this bread is bursting with flavor.
I had been dreaming about travelling to Spain for nearly a decade, so when I finally landed there back in April of 2000, I cried. The moment my feet touched Spanish soil, I was almost in disbelief. I was so overwhelmed that I could not contain my pure joy. It felt as if the entire universe lined up and planted me exactly where I was supposed to be for that one perfect moment. I wanted for nothing.
After everyone has been taken care of; debts paid off, college funds set up, etc… I would pack a bag, get on a plane and be a gypsy for a little while. Those experiences would be priceless.
I enjoy experiencing different countries through their food, culture, traditions, etc. It reminds me that we are not all that different from one another. I had been studying the language, history and politics of Spain and Latin America since I was 14 years old. I was more than ready to be fully immersed and gain experiences I could not get from a book, no matter how much I studied. Everything was different: the food, the language, the sounds, the smells… and I couldn’t have been happier.
My first stop was a little tapas place in Barcelona. I knew Spanish food, or at least I thought I did back then. There were the obligatory patatas bravas, croquetas, and of course the tortilla espanola, but I was in Catalunya and the menu was written in Catalan, not Spanish…
I saw this item on the menu “pa amb tomaquet”. I had no idea what it was, so I ordered it! That’s logical thinking, right? I figured if it was horribly awful, I just wouldn’t eat it. Well, I was in for the best surprise imaginable! Out came the server with pieces of thick-sliced, grilled bread that glistened with tomato pulp and olive oil. Once it got closer I could smell the garlic. I was in heaven.
I bit down and the smokiness of the bread was the first thing I noticed, followed by the aroma of the garlic. The bread oozed olive oil onto my tongue hitting every taste bud as it rolled off into my mouth and the acidity from the tomatoes cut right through it. The crunch of the sea salt as I began chewing was the part that put me right over the top. It was one of the best things I had that trip. So simple, yet incredibly satisfying.
In my humble opinion, this is perfect in its simplicity. Garlic, tomato, olive oil, salt. I don’t need anything else, but if you feel you need a little something extra a few slices of good jamon serrano would be a great addition.
This is perfect alongside a mixed grill, a bowl of soup, as a starter or even just a light lunch or afternoon snack. Because there are only a handful of ingredients it is imperative to use the best olive oil you can find. I am partial to Arbequina olive oil, especially for this application. It is summer, so the tomatoes should be gorgeous and ripe! No mediocre tomatoes here, only luscious and juicy ones! Finally, use a good sea salt. I happen to like the huge flakes of Maldon sea salt, as I enjoy that crunch when I bite down on it. If that isn’t your thing, then a finer sea salt would work, but please, for all that is good and holy, do not use iodized table salt.
Grilled Bread with Tomato and Garlic
- 1 loaf rustic country bread
- 6 medium - large ripe tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced in half
- 1/4 cup best quality olive oil
- a few big pinches of good sea salt
- Grill bread on both sides until lightly golden and grill marks appear.
- While bread is warm, rub with cut side of garlic clove. Garlic will melt into bread.
- Slice a tomato in half and "scrub" cut side into bread, lightly squeezing pulp out.
- (Each tomato half should do 2 pieces of bread)
- Drizzle liberally with a few glugs of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt.
- Best eaten immediately, but can be heated in the oven if needed.
- Heat on a rack inside of a sheet pan so bread stays crunchy.