It’s just one of those things that needs to happen. In August, you need to take a minute to remember just how awesome tomatoes are riiiight now. Eat one plain, eat one with a tiny bit of salt, but before graduating to that messy tomato sandwich with tons of mayo (AND butter), don’t forget to try it’s refined but still totally indulgent distant cousin, pan con tomate.
It doesn’t have to be much more than its name, bread with tomato, but the small amount of technique applied with toasting the baguette and rubbing the coarse surface of it with a tomato half is what elevates it from the experience of slices of tomato on bread. That has its place too but this is about a vehicle that can support ripe tomato pulp and nectar to deliver its essence without the intrusion of skin or bread that’s turned to mush. Plus, while you could and already have slurped the insides of a tomato straight, here you get to prolong the experience, chewing on it instead with that really good olive oil and salt you used to heighten everything.
Plain pan con tomate is perfection and improving on perfection with something this subtle requires restraint. Optional additions like the ones listed below are invitees by association only. They aren’t required at this party and shouldn’t overshadow. At best, they are tomato’s “plus one”.
Pan con Tomate
1 demi-baguette, halved once crosswise and then once lengthwise
1 garlic clove, halved
1 large, ripe, perfect, red (preferably) summer tomato
Extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt or other sea salt
Preheat oven to 450F degrees.
Toast baguette halves, cut side-down on a baking tray for about 10 minutes. Rub the cut side quickly with the garlic, then with the cut side of the tomato halves until all of the pulp and colour has been transferred; discard (or set aside to eat later) the tomato skins. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with crushed Maldon salt and eat immediately.
Shaved Manchego or other strong cheese
Buratta or other creamy cheese
Preserved red pepper or eggplant
Olive or pickled chili slices
Fresh, leafy herbs
Cured meat slices