At the beginning of tomato season, the ruby red heirlooms and romas and beefsteaks all seemed so rare and special. They were to be handled with reverence and care. Ah how times have changed.
Thanks to my CSA folks (and those other members who seem to have stopped picking up their shares) , I'm now inundated with fragile, perfectly ripe but quickly deteriorating tomatoes. An entire corner of my kitchen counter is dedicated to them in fact. And as the vast majority of my kitchen is located in said corner, this means that about 80% of my counter space is dedicated to the bounty of the season.
I had my fill of sliced heirlooms with salt and olive oil in California, and frankly, the tomatoes here can't hold a candle to the ones there this year so I can't bring myself to repeat the dish for fear of disappointment. And I can only consume so many slow roasted tomatoes and tomato and goat cheese gratins and my freezer can only hold so much tomato sauce (it is currently at capacity, but I must say these recent batches are many, many times more delicious than those made with canned Marzanos).
So what to do? Make pan con tomate, that's what.
I've had a vague awareness of the dish for years. I've had it before, mainly at Bar Jamon with a glass of cava, accompanied by light conversation with a close friend who lives in the area. But I never fell in love with it. The bread had more of a whisper of tomato rather than a exhortation, so it never felt like much more than a mindless nibble to accompany drinks.
But my mind was changed in Barcelona this summer. Laia and Marta insisted on an order of pan con tomate in the fabulous Cerveseria Catalana, and I agreed, as a guest ought to, despite my vague misgivings. But as you can probably guess, I had no need to be nervous. What we received was bread with some true character, bravely soaked with delicious tomato pulp, drizzled unabashedly with olive oil, and sprinkled with divine flaked sea salt.
So I implore you, do not let your tomatoes go to waste! Toast some good country bread (or if you are feeling quite authentic, grill it), rub it aggressively with a cut clove of garlic (the garlic taste will be much more subtle than you may think at this point, so be brave), rub just as aggressively with the cut half of a tomato (again, have courage, you want a lot of pulp). Then drizzle with a good olive oil (I like one of the less grassy/more buttery ones just to give it a little richness) and sprinkle with salt. I must insist on Maldon or an equivalent here. Trust me, you will thank me later.