Those of you who read my column regularly know that I am afflicted with the travel bug. I had the good fortune to visit Spain recently — just before the crisis — and was able to enjoy the flavors of that beautiful country.
Given the status of the world today, it is unclear when we will resume our normal lives, let alone international travel. Until then, I shall relish my memories of past trips and enjoy the cuisines of far-flung lands while I shelter in the safety of my home.
Tomato bread is nearly ubiquitous in Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan region. It is often placed on the table at restaurants when guests arrive — think pickles at a Jewish deli or bread and olive oil at an Italian restaurant. It can be made with any loaf that has some heft (don’t use challah or brioche), and is an excellent way to use day-old bread.
The chicken dish was given to me by a friend who was living in Barcelona until recently. She is of Indian descent and had a grand time in España creating fusion recipes of her native cooking and the local fare.
The cuisines do have some ingredients in common, such as garlic, and others that are disparate but complementary, such as ginger, cumin, lemon and mint. This dish blends them into a delicious symphony of flavors and is a snap for the cook.
Catalan Tomato Bread
Called pan con tomate in Spanish or pa amb tomaquet in Catalan, this bread is delicious no matter what you call it. Toasting the bread to a crisp is key; this enables you to, essentially, “grate” the garlic and tomato on the bread, which captures and infuses more flavor.
We served it with grilled chicken and a salad comprised of lettuce, raw beets, avocados, cucumbers and black olives, but this bread goes with
- 1 baguette or other crusty bread, cut in half lengthwise and then into 3-inch portions
- 2 plum or other ripe whole tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 clove garlic, cut in half
- Best-quality olive oil, Spanish if possible, for drizzling
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
In a toaster oven, toast the bread, in batches if needed, to a crisp.
Rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the surface of the bread.
Rub the cut side of the tomato over the surface of the bread; press it firmly to transfer the juice and flesh onto bread. When done, the tomato should be flat and all that should be left in the skin, and the bread should be lightly coated with the tomato innards.
Lightly drizzle the bread with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.
Using the thin cutlets (or horizontally slicing boneless breasts into three thinner pieces) makes for a shorter cooking time and more flavor, since the marinade can permeate the meat more thoroughly.
We served this with sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil and a green salad, but it is superversatile and really goes with just about any simple sides. I would avoid overly seasoned or saucy accompaniments because the chicken packs a lot of flavors.
- 1½ pounds thin-cut skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 lemon
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves (for serving)
Mix the garlic, ginger, lemon juice plus rinds, salt, pepper, cumin and oil in a sealable bag or container. Add the chicken and flip it to coat all pieces thoroughly.
Allow the chicken to marinade for several hours or overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a baking dish and pour the marinade over the chicken.
Bake for 30 minutes until done.
Toss the mint leaves over the chicken and serve.