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 TomaquetWhy 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
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.