Dreaming of Spain


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My love affair with Spain borders on the absurd; tears form in my eyes when I talk about my past visits, when I email or call my Spanish friends I'm always left choked up, and eating anything Spanish at home only serves to temporarily satisfy me but always leaves me longing for more.

This longing is exacerbated by the fact that Spain has been in the culinary hot seat for several years running now. But I'm certainly not complaining. One can't open a magazine or talk about food trends without acknowledging Spain's strong pull, and one need not look any further than WD-50 or Alinea to feel the influence of Roses' El Bulli.

Grocery shelves are being filled with Spanish items like never before, from Marcona Almonds to Zamorano cheese to Sherries and Riojas. And they're all hot sellers, too.

This is great for fans of Spanish cuisine, but what makes it all the more painful is the fact that for some time some of Spain's best foods could not legally be imported into the United States. Because there was not a Spanish slaughterhouse and curing facility that met the US Department of Agriculture's standards, items like chorizos and Jamón Iberico could not legally be imported in the United States. There have been a few American facilities like La Tienda of Williamsburg, Virginia and La Española of Los Angeles making Spanish foods, and while they're of the highest quality and quite delicious, there's nothing like the real thing.

Luckily, the Spanish and American governments have approved the first facility in Spain that will produce Spanish hams for domestic importing. We're still about a year away from tasting true Jamón on American soil, but what a happy and delicious day that will finally be. I'm bound to start crying all over again.

Pa Amb Tomaquet
Why is it some of life's greatest pleasures are the most basic? Out of everything I ate in Spain the first time I visited that I just can't stop eating regularly is Pa Amb Tomquet, known as Catalan tomato bread. It can be enjoyed on its own or served with anchovies, serrano ham, manchego cheese or capers. It's simplicity at its finest and always hits the spot.

Ingredients
4 slices of thick French bread, a good crusty kind
1 very ripe tomato, sliced in half
1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved
extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
sea salt

Method
Toast the slices by grilling or in a toaster. Rub the toasted slices with garlic halves and tomato halves. You want to really work the tomato into the bread, leaving you with a moist, pink surface. Discard the tomatoes, drizzle the toast with olive oil and sea salt and enjoy immediately.


5 Responses to “Dreaming of Spain”

  1. Anonymous melissa 

    wow! i love that recipe - and it's nearly, well, exactly the same recipe that my grandmother used to make at every family dinner at my grandparent's house! (we're italians; italians & spaniards are neighbors!!!) she called it - and sorry for my italian here, "pane pomodoro" - she did all the same things you described in your recipe from rubbing a freshly-cut clove of garlic over the crusty, grilled bread to nearly saturating it with juices and pulp from an overripe tomato (overripe but she would never use a mealy tomato!) from her garden, to the salt (she always used kosher) and the olive oil! i also remember her sometimes giving it a sprinkling of freshly grated parmiaggiano reggiano, and sometimes she'd put minced fresh basil leaves on it. but always, bread, salt, tomatoes, olive oil & garlic.

    i love that - and i love the photo! at first glance it appears to be the makings of some first class tapas - which i haven't had since i left dallas and MAN do i miss a good tapas bar...

  2. Anonymous david 

    the same bread is also popular in malta (going further down from italy now but still "close" to spain!!)

    Although the basil which melissa mentioned is very popular, sometimes oregano is substituted.

    Not to mention that all is normally washed down with some nice red wine (sometimes slightly chilled since the ambient temperature can be a bit on the high side)

  3. Anonymous david 

    the same bread is also popular in malta (going further down from italy now but still "close" to spain!!)

    Although the basil which melissa mentioned is very popular, sometimes oregano is substituted.

    Not to mention that all is normally washed down with some nice red wine (sometimes slightly chilled since the ambient temperature can be a bit on the high side)

  4. Anonymous Aji Dulce 

    Hi Matt,

    I've been reading you for a while, but this is my first time commenting. I decided to break the silence because of the pa amb tomaquet.

    I remember the first time i tried it, 6 or 7 years ago the first came to Barcelona with the guy who is my now husband. It was heaven. I kept asking him how this marvelous creation hadn't taken over the world yet. How!? How could this be a thing only done in Catalunya?! how has the rest of Spain not caught up with pa amb tomaquet!?

    I've eaten pa amb tomaquet many times after that, and every single time i eat it i think it's just genious and now i cannot make a sandwich without "rubbed tomato"...

    Now i live in Barcelona and i have to summon all my will power not to eat it everyday.

    Let me recommend an excellent olive oil to have with bread (with or without tomato) it's called Dauro de l'Empordà.

    Congrats on you blog. It's fantastic!

    Salud!

  5. Anonymous Brett 

    Matt, my soul brother! Reading of your reverie for Spain nearly brought tears to my eyes. I lose my mind whenever I am reminded that the US govt. won't allow the import of jamón ibérico into the US. A year is a long time to wait...perhaps I'll have to plan a trip to get the real stuff soon. BTW, I second Aji Dulce's recommendation for Dauro de l'Empordà olive oil.

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About me

  • I'm Matt Armendariz
  • From Los Angeles, California
  • A man with a passion for good food and a wonderful life with a dash of irreverence. Read at your own risk. Advertising director by day, wino by night. All photos on this site by Matt Armendariz.
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