The Spanish breakfast par excellence, pan con tomate (tomato bread), is served at cafés and bars all over the country. Pick a good one and you'll be presented with crisp slices of toasted baguette that glisten with olive oil and fragrant, fresh tomato.
In Madrid, common practice is to blend or grate the tomatoes before spreading the resulting salsa onto the bread, but this can be labour-intensive. It's easier to make the Catalan version at home, by rubbing a cut tomato directly onto the toast. This saves on washing up, though it isn't without its downsides. You need exceptionally flavourful tomatoes to make it work as the toast softens before it has had a chance to pick up more than a thin layer of flesh.
I sometimes add a few slices of avocado, while slivers of ruby-red jamón serrano are a common addition, especially at brunch. If the prospect of early-morning garlic doesn't appeal, you can omit it. Many restaurants do. Personally, I'd rather take my chances. It's the garlicky punch that lifts a piece of pan con tomate from the ordinary to the sublime.
However you go about it, it's hard to think of a simpler way to feel both immensely satisfied and virtuous before nine o'clock in the morning. ¡Buen aprovecho!
Pan con Tomate Serves 1
1 piece of baguette, split lengthways
1 clove of garlic
1 ripe tomato
Extra-virgin olive oil (the best you can find)
Sea salt, to taste
1. Toast the baguette.
2. Cut the garlic clove in half and rub the cut surface lightly across the toasted bread.
3. Do the same with the tomato until the toast has picked up as much of the flesh as possible. Or alternatively, nick the skin of the tomato and plunge it into boiling water for around 30 seconds to make it easy to peel. Remove the skin and blend or grate the flesh before spooning it onto the toast.
4. Add any additional toppings, such as slices of jamón serrano or avocado.
5. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and dive in.