John Ash had a memorable tapas dish when he first visited Spain in 1994: Catalan tomato bread. The California chef and culinary instructor called it “one of the simplest yet most delicious tapas I’ve ever had. … The ingredients are very simple but depend on the ripest tomatoes and good crusty bread with a sturdy texture.”
Simple indeed. Take a thick slice of good peasant-style bread and grill or toast it “so that it is just beginning to turn golden but still soft inside,” notes Ash, the name behind the famed Santa Rosa, Calif., restaurant, John Ash & Co. (The eatery helped unleash the food and wine pairing craze of today.)
Rub the toasted bread with a cut fresh garlic clove and then rub it with a ripe tomato that’s been cut in half and gently squeezed to remove the seeds and excess moisture.
“As you are rubbing be careful not to moisten the bread too much,” Ash cautions. Serve it immediately with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.
In his cookbook Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (Clarkson Potter, 2005), Ash includes a modern recipe for Catalan tomato bread.
You can eat the dish as is or topped with shaved cheese such as Manchego, thinly sliced Serrano or Iberico ham, smoked salmon or other fish, white sardines, etc. I’d accompany it with a glass of good Spanish sparkling wine, or Cava.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch