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!)

pan con tomate; toast with garlic, tomato, olive oil, and salt

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.

pan con tomate; Puerta del Sol, grand square in Madrid

Puerta del Sol, the grand square in Madrid

pan con tomate; churros with chocolate is a popular breakfast in Madrid

if your tastes run to a sweet breakfast, the local favourite of churros con chocolate is a fantastic way to start the day

pan con tomate; thunderstorm coming in Madrid

that’s me in the turquoise t-shirt, hoping we can get to a cafe before the rains descend on us

pan con tomate; Aperol Spritz and wine in the rain in Madrid

on a rainy day in Madrid it’s fun to sit under a café umbrella and people-watch

pan contomate; Madrid Collage - Royal Palace, opera singer in street in front of palace, tapas in Mercado San Miguel, Plaza Mayor

the Royal Palace, an opera singer on the street, Plaza Mayor, a selection of tapas

pan con tomate; a selection of the famous Jamón ibérico in a grocery store in Sitges

Jamón ibérico – the famous Spanish ham – this selection was found in the local grocery store in Sitges

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.

pan con tomate; night view of the back of the cathedral in Seville

magical night view of the back of the cathedral in Seville

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.

pan con tomate; jacaranda tree at the Alcazar gardens

jacaranda tree in the beautiful gardens of the Alcazar palace in Seville

pan con tomate; Andalusia Collage

Raymond and I on the new side of the bridge with the old town of Rhonda in the distance; a white hill town; lunch of sangria, tomato salad, olives, and fried anchovies; miles and miles of olive groves on our drives

pan con tomate; moorish arches inside the Alcazar royal palace, Seville

moorish arches inside the Royal Alcazar palace in Seville

pan con oSeville Collage

olive trees everywhere, Seville carriages at night, view from Rhonda, bougainvillea at the Alcazar in Seville

From Seville we traveled to some of the surrounding fairy-tale whitewashed hill towns of Andalusia.

pan con tomate; Rhonda, Spain, is built onto the cliffs surrounding a gorge

Rhonda is a spectacular town, built onto the cliffs on both sides of a deep gorge

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.)

pan con tomate; pilgrims arriving in Obradoiro Square in Santiago de Compostela

weary and elated pilgrims arriving in Obradoiro Square, the endpoint of the long Camino de Santiago pilgrimage

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.

pan con tomate; St Jean de Luz photo Collage, festival in St. Jean de Luz, octopus, basque gateaux

Saint-Jean-de-Luz friends at the fête; the famous and delicious Gâteau Basque; dancing villagers at the Fête de Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Galician octopus is delicious,

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!)

pan con tomate; view from the steep road up Atsulai mountain near Ainhoa, at the Chapel of Notre-Dame de l'Aubépine

view from the top of Atsulai mountain near Ainhoa

pan con tomate; the horses loved our car up the mountain behind Ainhoa

our car was very popular with the equestrian crowd. they left it full of smeared nose prints

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.

pan con tomate; kids jumping from the pier in San Sebastian on a hot afternoon

as soon as school’s out, hordes of kids head to the pier to jump into the crystal clear water to cool off on a hot day

pan con tomate; pintxo selection in a Basque bar

bars all over town had rows of loaded platters with a staggering array of the most delicious pintxos – you just point out the ones you want and load up your plate, then pay after you’re all done. a glass of the local fresh green wine, txakoli, is a fantastic accompaniment

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.)

pan con tomate; the islet of Gaztelugatxe near Bilbao in the Basque Country of Spain

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).

pan con tomate; French Basque Country photo collage

main street in the Basque town of Espelette; sheep grazing in the French Basque Country; a red-timbered Basque farmhouse; contented cows

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!

pan con tomate; a plate full of fried padron peppers

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.

pan con tomate; Plaça Reial (Royal Plaza of Barcelona) with its palm trees and colonial air

the Plaça Reial (Royal Plaza) in Barcelona is full of colonial ambience

pan con tomate; Antoni Gaudi's Casa Batlló in Barcelona

Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló is just one of his many eyecatching wonders. visiting his Sagrada Familia Cathedral is also a must

pan con tomate; watching a tugboat in the harbour at Barcelona

we loved to sit at harbourside cafes and watch the boats come in

pan con tomate; the Montjuïc Cemetery in Barcelona is unbelievable!

the Montjuïc Cemetery was a marvel – acres of stunning mausoleums and crypts. it’s so large there are two bus stops inside this peaceful and spectacular cemetery. it has a beautiful view of Barcelona’s harbour if you climb to the top

And of course, you cannot leave Spain without tasting an authentic paella.

pan con tomate; a seafood paella with lobster in Barcelona

this one from the lovely 7 Portes restaurant had lobster in it

 

But What About the Bare Bottoms?

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.

Pan con Tomate - streaker in Madrid

My brain was still in ‘mooning’ mode when I snapped these marbled cheeks in a fountain in Madrid’s Retiro Park one cloudy afternoon.

Pan con Tomate - fountain in Retiro Park, Madrid

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.

Pan con Tomate - Kids on the beach in Cadiz

Of course, those statues just cannot keep their clothes on either.

pan con tomate; staute in the Plaça de Catalunya, barcelona

Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona

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.

pan con tomate - caganers (poopers) in a Barcelona shop

through the shop window

pan con tomate - look at the funny caganers

okay, so now I’ve seen it all

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.

pan con tomate; grating the tomato

grate the tomato to get all the juicy pulp

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.

pan con tomate; a simple Spanish breakfast

Pan con Tomate (Tomato Bread)

  • 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.

Buen Provecho!

 

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The simple Spanish breakfast, Pan con Tomate, is traditionally served as a breakfast dish or as part of a tapas spread. It is sublime in its simplicity.

 

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Cioccolata Calda – the Italian Hot Chocolate I fell in love with on our trip to Italy

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Our Eastern Europe Trip and a German Potato Salad

Easy Baked Caponata – and Driving Around Sicily