From my last trip home, I brought back tomates de colgar. These are a special kind of self-preserving tomatoes: they are collected under the midday soon, after a few days without watering, when they are almost ripe but not quite… This is to ensure that they are as dry as possible because they will be woven together in long strands and left to hang in the larder. If stored correctly, these little tomatoes will hang on until the following spring!
As you can see from the picture, they are smaller than normal vine tomatoes and a different colour too: deep pink with yellow or orange parts and lightly spotted. These little tomatoes are quite divine and perfect for pan con tomate.
I will give you my method for pan con tomate but, be warned… ¡aquí hay tomate! Meaning that there is more than meets the eye, be it gossip, something fishy or some controversy.
Indeed, everything about pan con tomate is controversial: which region “invented” it, its place in bocadillos (always or never?) or… how to make it “properly”. It is always very entertaining to watch people with different opinions discuss such a weighty matter, as it always seems that it could easily end in a bloodbath, tomatina style.
There is something everybody agrees on, though: tennis ball tomatoes are not a good way to start. You will need ripe tomatoes, flavourful and yielding. Ideally, all the tomato flesh will go onto the bread and you will be left with only the skin in your hand. If you have never seen a tomato this yielding, you have never seen a good tomato: bring back some tomates de colgar next time you go to Spain! Hand luggage is not only for duty free bottles, people!
Pan con tomate / Pa amb tomàquet (tomata/tomàtiga/tomaca, etc.)
1 diente de ajo, pelado
1 garlic clove, peeled
*N.B.: The crumb must be solid enough to withstand some vigorous rubbing; if it is not, toasting will help… But nothing will help you if you got bad bread. If your bread is good, it could even be from the day before.
- Place a slice of bread on a flat surface and rub it with the garlic clove: the harder you press, the more garlicky the result.
- Rub the 1/2 tomato, cut side down, on the bread. The pulp and seeds will stick to the crumb and colour it red.
- Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with olive oil.
- Enjoy! On its own or with any worthy savouries: anchoas, queso, embutidos, jamón… On top, or sandwiched.
As I said, ¡aquí hay tomate!: my grandpa will not have it without garlic but my mother will. My father puts goes for oil first, then tomato, so the bread does not get too soaked. A friend of mine rubs the bread slices on both sides (yes, it is a thing that people do). Salt might be a sin or a must…
So, what’s the proper way to make pan con tomate? The way you like it. The less you talk about it, the more you are eating!
As I have been stealthily quoting Pink Martini, I might as well acknowledge that the festive season is upon us and leave you with one of their videos: Holiday table setting with Thomas Lauderdale, which “tiene mucho tomate” (same meaning as above).