Summer Is For Pa Amb Tomàquet

With summer produce abound, I've found myself in a bit of a tomato rut. I've been polishing off king-sized portions of caprese, stuffing them with everything (including more tomatoes), and smashing them into every vodka cocktail I rely upon to stave off the heat — it's science folks, vodka cools you off.

I'd like to go back to the basics and really appreciate those ripe, juicy summer vegetable-fruits. One of the simplest and most beautiful ways to enjoy hot weather tomatoes is more basic than fresh tomato sauce or even caprese — it's pa amb tomàquet, a very popular Catalonian dish of cut ripe tomatoes rubbed on bread with garlic, olive oil and salt.

It's not quite bruschetta — that requires a fresh salsa-like blend of tomatoes, onions and basil. It's not quite begging for mozzarella the way other tomato-rubbed bread might. It actually seems perfectly content just the way it is, vegetarian for your Meatless Monday convenience and light for your slightly-diminished hot weather appetite (I swear I heard my braiser rattling around in the cabinet like a ghost last night).

I implore you, if you're making a sandwich between right now and the end of September when the last tomatoes go into hibernation for the long, dark, utterly tomatoless winter ahead, pa amb tomàquet your bread first. It's now a verb, joining the ranks of red-velveting and Chinese-oranging. Tomàquet that bread, and your sandwich will improve substantially.

Here's my made-up story as to how this dish came about. The Valencian town of Buñol has been hurling excess tomatoes around as a good, neighborly day of fun for about 60 years (I know this dish has been around for hundreds of years, I said it was a made-up story). In the first few go-arounds, the town authorities were like "Hey! Don't throw those tomatoes or we'll make you eat them afterwards."

The rebellious citizens continued to transform the summer tomato glut into street marinara, so once the next year's party died down, the police distributed massive amounts of bread and forced the participants to clean up by wiping up every last bit of smashed tomato. But they provided olive oil and salt, too. They're not barbarians.

More tomatoes for lunch on Food Republic: