The best way to mark peak tomato season is also the easiest – pan con tomate, aka Spanish-style tomato toast, is simply tomato pulp, good olive oil, and flaky sea salt on toasted bread.
Already, summer is slipping away. Leaves are starting to edge golden, though for at least half of them, I think it’s the lack of rain as much as the fading sunlight. The sun is dipping below the horizon earlier each evening. Fall’s ultimate harbinger, the crickets are louder than the cicadas.
Even as signs of fall are visible, it’s brutally hot and I can barely keep up with the produce ripening in the garden.
Tomato Sandwiches (and Toasts) Forever
At least the best things to eat right now require little to no cooking.
On the counter, my family has no less than four kinds of bread. Sliced seed and white bread for tomato sandwiches, leftover sourdough (also for tomato sandwiches), and a seedy sourdough loaf from Marie Bette for this pan con tomate. Our priorities are clear.
Pan con Tomate: the Perfect Summer Bite
The hardest part of late summer eating is knowing how to do the least and allow the flavors of peak produce to shine through. Pan con tomate is just the thing to highlight the perfection of a tomato in August. It has just a handful of ingredients, but combined, they make the ideal summer bite.
You’ll want to start with good bread. I like a seedy sourdough (like this one from local bakery Marie Bette) or another rustic kind of bread. I sliced mine about 1/2-inch thick – enough to get nice and crisp on the outside but leave just a little chew in the center. I prepared my toasts much like I would a crouton – rubbed with a garlic clove, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and a little black pepper.
Next, pick your tomatoes. You want the brightest, best tasting slicing tomato you can find. I went with Brandywine here. Because the pulpy-ness of tomatoes can vary, have a few extra on hand.
And finally, you’ll need good olive oil – I like Sekka Hills or single source California Olive Ranch – and a flaky sea salt like Maldon. Other add-ons like a splash of sherry vinegar, a smear of chili paste, or anchovies are optional, but extra delicious.
- 8 1/2-inch thick slices seeded or rustic sourdough
- 1 large clove garlic, trimmed and peeled
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 - 3 medium slicing tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon sherry vinegar
- Calabrian chili paste, optional
- Anchovies in olive oil, optional
Preheat the broiler on high for 10 minutes. Arrange the toasts on a baking sheet. Toast until edges are browned, about 2 minutes per side.
Meanwhile, slice the bottoms off of 2 of the tomatoes and grate into a bowl with the large holes on a box grater (the pulp will grate up while the skin will stay intact). If mixture is very watery, go ahead and grate a 3rd tomato. Add sherry vinegar and chili paste, if using, and sea salt to taste (start with ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt).
Rub toasts on both sides with the garlic clove. Drizzle toasts with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
When ready to serve, spoon the tomato pulp onto the toasts. Finish with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and, if desired, slice into triangles. If you’d like, serve with anchovies and olives.