Pa amb tomàquet is the foundation of every sandwich in Catalonia. If the smear of tomato is missing, it gets sent back to the kitchen. Though it can be topped with a variety of tasty sausages or tinned fish, the basic recipe is difficult to improve upon. Look for ripe and soft tomatoes that have been stored only at room temperature. The proper bread will have a crisp crust. You also don’t want the loaf to be too tall (about 2 inches tall at most) because you will halve the entire loaf horizontally so the crust is on either side. If you’re making this recipe for a crowd, grate the pulp from halved tomatoes, then use a spoon to spread it onto the toasts. It goes faster that way, and the bread won’t be soggy by the time you’re ready to serve it.
- Slice the bread in half horizontally, as if for a sandwich. Cut the bread halves crosswise into rectangles or squares, 4 to 5 inches in diameter, and toast them in a toaster or toaster oven until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. You can also toast them under the broiler or on a grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side.
- Gently rub the cut sides of the garlic cloves all over the crispy sides of the toast. Then rub the cut sides of the tomatoes over the toast until the tomato pulp falls apart and seeps into the nooks and crannies. When the tomato halves have given up all their pulp and are completely spent, discard the remaining tomato skins and cores. Be sure the tomato pulp is spread evenly to all corners of the bread.
- Drizzle the toast with a generous amount of olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Sometimes I like to press the oily sides of the toasts together to help squeeze the oil deep into the toast. You can also cut each toast square on a diagonal to make triangles.
Reprinted from Catalan Food. Copyright © 2018 by Daniel Olivella. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs by Johnny Autry