Pan con Tomate (Tomato Bread) is a beautifully simple and delicious breakfast - a favourite way for Spaniards to start their day. All you need is five minutes and a few basic ingredients, sweet ripe tomato, garlic, olive oil, and a good bread, and you can have it, too. (I've included photos of our Spain trip and this is a loooooong post, so you may want to skip directly to the recipe or skip to the bit about Bare Bottoms!)
The month of June was a kaleidoscope for me - a wonderful, colourful, ever-changing kaleidoscope of the luscious memories, sights, sounds, and flavours of Spain and Portugal.
We are back from our trip, and I don't even know where to begin distilling the countless pictures swirling in my head and captured on my camera roll so I can share them with you. We flew to Barcelona, packed ourselves into our small rented car, and headed out to explore; roving gypsies with wide eyes, open ears, and empty stomachs eager to experience everything we could in four weeks of travel around the country: Sitges, Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Rhonda, Cádiz, Portugal (photos and recap in an upcoming post), Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (France), San Sebastian, the Basque Country, and back to Barcelona. The eyes stayed wide open, the ears heard wondrous sounds, and the stomachs got s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d!
Our first week in Madrid was cool and rainy, but that didn't affect our mood or our total enthrallment with the city. It is an exuberant amalgamation of Paris, Berlin, and Rome. We weren't expecting such a continental European vibe in Madrid; beautiful old architecture, stunning museums, grand squares, tree-lined boulevards, fantastic cafés, people, and food.
Seville has a magic all its own - it's known as the yellow city, all shades of yellow to amber from the buildings made of the local golden sand. Graceful palm trees lend a tropical air to its beautiful buildings and exotic Moorish-influenced architecture.
You could easily get lost in the narrow winding streets of its old quarter. We were there in time to see the stunning purple jacaranda trees in bloom all over the city.
From Seville we traveled to some of the surrounding fairy-tale whitewashed hill towns of Andalusia.
Then off to Portugal for a week (coming in the next post). After that we drove north back into Spain and spent a memorable afternoon in Santiago de Compostela - the endpoint of the Camino pilgrimage trail. It was surprisingly emotional to stand at the shell imprinted in the center of the city's large cathedral square and watch pilgrims come staggering in from all directions after their 1000-kilometer treks (maybe even more so because our daughter is also heading off in a week to walk the journey herself.)
A highlight of the trip was our stay in the Basque Country. We spent four nights in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, and discovered some of the most charming corners of this fantastic agricultural region. We were lucky to be in town on June 24, during the Fête de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, when all the townspeople dress in red and black to honour their patron saint. The streets were crowded with joyful people; folk dancing, singing, drinking, music, parades, street food, and much merriment late into the night. It was a blast to be caught up in the midst of this wonderful celebration.
At the lovely red-timbered village of Ainhoa in the French Basque Country, we took a steeply winding gravel road way up into the hills. At the top was a little chapel with an old cemetary, three huge crosses, and a herd of friendly horses with bells on. The horses were very curious about our car and just couldn't stay away from it. The views of the surrounding countryside were spectacular (and the drive back down was very scary!)
San Sebastian, in the Spanish Basque Country has to be one of the prettiest cities I've ever seen, with a beautiful harbour, an enchanting old town, and the best pintxo selection (Basque style tapas) in the land.
We visited the little islet of Gaztelugatxe, with its 10th century hermitage built atop the barren rock reaching out into the sea. It was a steep two-kilometer climb down to the shore, then a good hike up the 237 stone steps to the chapel so we could ring the bell three times and make a wish. (Season 7 of Game of Thrones was filmed here, with Gaztelugatxe standing in for Dragonstone.)
The Basque Country's charming red and white villages and rolling hills dotted with cattle and sheep stole my heart. I took a couple cooking classes to learn the techniques for this world-famous cuisine (recaps in an upcoming post).
My favourite appetizer in the Basque (and the rest of Spain) was a simple plate of fried padron peppers sprinkled with sea salt. Out of this world!
Our journey ended with a stay in Barcelona, to poke around this beautiful city; home of Gaudi's famous architectural wonders and full of Catalonian history and charm.
And of course, you cannot leave Spain without tasting an authentic paella.
Now, I bet you've been wondering what the 'bare bottoms' in the title of this post is all about.
Well, the theme for this trip just sort of 'revealed' itself. What can I say? I couldn't ignore the signs - the universe was speaking to me (I think it might have been joking, but I'm sometimes a little slow on the uptake).
It all started in Madrid . . . (and yes, I know this is a food blog - no place for bare bottoms - but a little bit of variety is good for our appetite, right?) . . .
. . . it started with . . . with a streaker! We were hanging out near the Royal Palace of Madrid, when what should come flashing by? A few 'cheeky' streakers on bicycles, protesting who-knows-what. (Come on, ladies, whose eyes have time to read the placards they're carrying when there's so much else to look at?!!!!)
WARNING: The following material is x-rated. Scroll no farther if you are under-age.
My brain was still in 'mooning' mode when I snapped these marbled cheeks in a fountain in Madrid's Retiro Park one cloudy afternoon.
A day at the beach in Cádiz was spent lolling in the sun, splashing in the crystal clear waves, and lazily people-watching. I love how European parents don't make a fuss about beach attire for young children. We saw many young kids happily playing on the beach 'au naturel' ( there's plenty enough time to develop uptight inhibitions later in life!). Childhood should be uncomplicated and joyful.
Of course, those statues just cannot keep their clothes on either.
And then to top (or bottom) it all off; on our last day in Barcelona we took a walking tour of the city. Our guide stopped in front of a shop window to explain to us the curious Christmas tradition widely followed in this region of Spain. Caganers, quite literally 'Poopers', are little figurines with their pants down, taking a poop. The characters can be anything from the local peasant with his red cap to famous people and popular figures from history, literature, pop culture, or around the world. What may seem like an irreverent or rude depiction, is actually a symbol of good luck, and caganers are abundantly gifted at Christmas time. Shops carrying shelves and shelves of them are to be found all over the city.
It is considered to bring good fortune in the coming year if you have one of these little 'crappers' in your home, usually tucked into a nativity scene. Our guide said the little piles of poop represent, "What is taken from the earth is given back to the earth."
So there you have it - Bare Bottoms in Abundance.
Now, on to the Pan con Tomate (Phew, I'm 'pooped' and need a snack after all that!)
Breakfast in Spain is simple. If your taste runs to sweet, you'll happily nibble on churros con chocolat; if you fancy something savoury, you'll enjoy a pan con tomate (tomato bread). You might have a cafe con leche (milky coffee) or a glass of freshly squeezed zumo de naranja (orange juice) to go with it. (For a great recipe for hot chocolate for dipping, try the Italian Cioccolata Calda from our Italy trip - it tastes much like the Spanish breakfast chocolate.)
In several restaurants, we were served a slice of toast and a tomato and garlic clove so we could make the toast ourselves at the table, as a tapa before the meal. At breakfast in our little hotel in Barcelona there was a basket of tomatoes and garlic set next to the toaster, along with a bottle of olive oil. This popular Spanish treat is easy to make for a quick breakfast, snack, or as part of a tapas spread.
All you do is get a good slice of country bread, rye bread, baguette, or your favourite gluten-free bread. (I've used Spiffy Artisanal Gluten Free Bakeshop's Milky White bread in the photos.) You want a bread that toasts up crunchy and hard, so that it provides a good surface to rub the garlic and tomato on without the bread tearing. Toast it to be relatively dark and crispy. (The tomato pulp will soak in and soften it.) Grate the tomato halves on a box grater or cheese grater, spread the purée on the garlic-kissed bread, add a good drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Heaven.
You can add a slice of aged cheese, like Manchego, Comté, Asiago, or Old Cheddar, or even a bit of Spanish ham or prosciutto to make it a more substantial breakfast or tapa.
* * * * *
Kitchen Frau Notes: Use small tomatoes that are sweet and ripe. You can rub the tomato directly on the bread if your bread is hard enough, or grate it on a cheese grater to make a juicy pulp that you spoon onto the bread. This method's a little messier, but provides maximum tomato flavour (my preferred way) and is easier if your bread isn't crunchy enough.
- 2 slices of good country bread or your favourite gluten free bread
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small ripe tomato
- olive oil
- flaky sea salt (or regular sea salt)
Toast the bread in a toaster or on a baking sheet in the oven until it is good and crispy. Let the slices cool to harden the bread a bit. A harder surface will make it easier to rub the garlic and tomato over the bread without tearing it.
Peel the garlic clove and rub it over one side of each slice of toast.
Cut the tomato in half crosswise, then rub the cut side of the tomato over the toast if you like a light coating of tomato. For a more generous tomato layer, grate the cut side of the tomato on a cheese grater or box grater set over a bowl. Grate it until you reach the skin. Discard the tomato skin and any remaining pulp stuck to it. Scoop the grated tomato flesh up with a spoon and spread it on the toast, about 1 tomato half per slice.
Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt.
For a more hearty breakfast or snack, add a slice of cheese or ham on top of the tomato bread.
Makes 2 slices.
Sign up here to receive new Kitchen Frau recipes directly to your email inbox, and get a handy and useful kitchen tip with each recipe.
Don’t forget to PIN IT to save the recipe:
You might also like: