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Pan Catalan (and belated Tomato Tuesday)

August 2, 2012

Happy August!

August means time for tomatoes. And my birthday. I like how those line up.

Last year I celebrated my 30th with a tapas party. This year? I’m still figuring that out. But in the meantime, my kitchen continues to turn out homemade tapas.

I have little to do with it; these things are so simple to make, they practically assemble themselves.

Take Pan Catalan. Otherwise known as pan con tomate or pan a la Catalana. This spectacularly easy-to-prepare appetizer combines two of my favorite things: tomatoes and bread. (Not that the other ingredients, garlic and olive oil, aren’t favorites, too…)

I always, always have tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic on hand. And since my girlfriend’s new weekend routine is to knead and toss three homemade baguettes in the oven, we usually have those, too.

Eventually my girlfriend is going to write a guest blog post about her homemade baguettes. I’m impatient, though, so first I’m going to tell you what to do with them.*

Though this recipe only calls for one tiny little tomato, it is still all about the essence of tomatoes (and the flavors of their sweet juices and seeds mingling with the fresh garlic and warm olive oil and bread).

Which reminds me… Last week, July 24th, was designated as Tomato Tuesday, a virtual Food Bloggers for Slave-Free Tomatoes event.

The impetus behind Tomato Tuesday was the Recipe for Change Campaign for Slave-Free Tomatoes. According to the Recipe for Change site, “in the past 15 years, over 1,000 people have been freed from slavery in Florida’s tomato fields.” A coalition of tomato pickers have developed the Fair Food Program, which “establishes a zero tolerance policy for slavery, child labor, and serious sexual harassment on Florida’s tomato farms.”

Although stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have already joined the Fair Food Program, many major grocery store chains have not yet pledged to do the same.

You can help! Send a message asking major U.S. supermarket chains to join the Fair Food Program and stock slave-free tomatoes. It’s as simple as filling in your name and address.

Not having time to stay caught up on everyone else’s wonderful food blogs, I somehow missed this slave-free tomato awareness event last Tuesday, but just happened to post about the flavor superiority of non-supermarket tomatoes, anyway. When I learned about Food Bloggers for Slave-Free Tomatoes, I felt sorry to have missed the chance to join in and spread the word. But better late than never!

So please make an effort to buy local tomatoes from CSA shares and farmer’s markets, grow your own tomatoes, or buy them from stores that have committed to the Fair Food Program, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

And meanwhile, choose one ripe (and slave-free) tomato to make yourself some Pan Catalan. I spent countless pesetas, in Spain’s pre-euro days, on this Catalonian appetizer that consists of toasted bread rubbed with fresh tomato and garlic.

Just one bite can transport me back to Barcelona. It’s no wonder this keeps showing up on my table.

* … besides making super delicious baguette French toast, which tastes even better once the loaves have become slightly stale.

Print this recipe.


Pan Catalan

(Serves 4 as an appetizer)

~ 12-16 slices of baguette, or some other nice bread
~ 1 small tomato
~ 1 clove of garlic
~ generous drizzling of olive oil
~ salt, to taste

How to make it:

1. Very lightly grill or toast the bread. (I like to brush the slices with a bit of olive oil before doing this, especially if I’m grilling it, but this extra olive oil can be skipped.)

2. Once toasted, lightly rub (or “grate”) the garlic clove over the top of each slice of bread. I often cut the clove in half first just to provide an easier grip on it. (And as you can see, I only grated away about ¼ of a clove for 6 slices of bread: enough to be piquant but not overwhelmingly garlicky.)

3. Cut the tomato in half horizontally, and rub the tomato juices across the tops of the bread slices, aiming for enough tomato flavor, but without making the toast soggy.

4. Drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

5. Serve warm. Preferably with sangria.

Print this recipe!

Related recipe posts:
> Tapas Party: Sangria, Queso de Cabra, and Papas Bravas
> Homemade Mayonnaise and Garlic Aioli
> Gazpacho Soup

24 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2012 9:20 am

    happy birthday when it comes

    • August 2, 2012 10:01 am

      Thank you! (It’s on the 17th, so I still have a little while… I guess I was just getting ahead of myself now that the month has arrived :)

  2. littlefashionistas permalink
    August 2, 2012 10:37 am

    I really love “pan tomaquet”, I think is a great way to eat the bread, very yummy!

    • August 2, 2012 3:56 pm

      Yes, it’s truly one of my favorites. I have probably made it at least five times this summer already, but just kept forgetting to take photos of it for the blog until now.

  3. August 2, 2012 12:55 pm

    I’m an August birthday too :D :D
    This tomato bread looks so delicious!!! I love your photos!

    Choc Chip Uru

    • August 2, 2012 3:58 pm

      Thank you! :)
      When’s your birthday? Happy early birthday (slash birthday month)!

  4. August 2, 2012 9:35 pm

    So glad you’re spreading the word about slave-free tomatoes. I also missed this event but now because of your post, I know about the effort and will be going to sign on. Thank you. And this recipe looks lovely!

    • August 3, 2012 10:47 am

      Wonderful; I’m glad to hear it! Even though I was out of the loop, I figured that it’s never too late to add my name and spread the word.

  5. August 2, 2012 9:48 pm

    This looks so good–we should eat tapas more. I also have fond memories of eating in Barcelona in the days of the peseta! I have read that some villages are re-introducing it locally, tho probably not for tourists. :)

    • August 3, 2012 10:51 am

      Wow, really? I can’t even imagine how complicated that’s going to make things for Spanish shopkeepers… I was there for the transition from the peseta to the euro (Spain spent two months– Jan. & Feb. 2002– with overlapping currencies, unlike some other countries that only spent one month or several days), and everyone was understandably complaining about all the complicated math that resulted!

      I agree– everyone should eat tapas more! I often find that in the summer, especially with so much random and abundant produce, many of my meals are just a collection of appetizers/salads anyway, rather than one central main dish.

  6. August 5, 2012 2:36 pm

    This looks awesome. Also an August birthday!

  7. August 24, 2012 10:38 am

    Making this tonight!

    • August 26, 2012 1:29 pm

      Awesome! Hope you enjoyed it!

      • August 26, 2012 2:56 pm

        It was good, but I wish I could have tasted the tomato more. Any suggestions?

      • August 26, 2012 3:03 pm

        My number one suggestion is to make sure you’re using an in-season, ripe, sweet, and flavorful tomato. Beyond that, I’d say feel free to rub MUCH more tomato onto the bread than I’ve done in the pictures (though I stopped where I did because I wanted the bread to stay crispy and not become soggy), or you could use a whole different approach:

        Instead of “grating” the tomato over the crispy bread, you could actually grate the tomato (using a cheese-grater) into a bowl. Then you could toast the bread, rub over some garlic, and drizzle on some olive oil, before spooning heaps of the tomato-sauce-like grated tomato on top of the bread. You’d run the risk of making it somewhat watery this way– perhaps using a slotted spoon to scoop up the grated tomato would help– but I’m sure it would have even more tomato flavor!

  8. July 11, 2013 11:12 am

    I’m happy that something so simple from my country (Catalonia, northeast of the Iberian Peninsula, under the French border in the Pyrenees) have gone that far. Let me say something to this: the recipe originally comes from the need to last bread for longer. In the cottages are used to baking bread one day a week, the breads were very large and round, and of course as days passed it was drier. Many recipes born of the need not to throw away anything.
    The most important thing (besides a good bread) is having a special tomato called “hanging tomatoes,” which are small, sweet and very juicy.
    (Sorry for my English).

    • July 11, 2013 2:23 pm

      Thanks for your comment! And yes, I think I’d learned that before about this recipe coming from the need to make bread last longer, but thanks for reminding me. Adding the seasonings of garlic and olive oil and the juiciness of sweet tomatoes is the perfect way to salvage stale bread.

      (I ate this dish a LOT when I lived in Barcelona…) Just one of the many genius recipes to originate in Catalonia! :)


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