Chef Teresa Montaño’s narrow, intimate restaurant has been a way for me to slip off to Barcelona, my all-time favorite city, while never leaving Los Angeles. As I peruse Otoño’s menu, tastes of Spain flit through my mind: croquetas de jamón (ham croquettes), paella, and, simplest of all, pan con tomate (bread with tomato), the item Montaño says is the restaurant’s most popular tapa. In Barcelona, pan con tomate is ubiquitous and savored at all times of the day and night. Some cafés and restaurants set out the ingredients on a plate and let customers rub garlic and tomato on the bread and season to taste. Otoño serves the toast already prepared and often topped with thinly sliced Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, the prized Spanish ham made from acorn-fed pigs. With tomatoes in season, it’s easy to re-create this exquisite taste of Barcelona at home. By Jean T. Barrett
- 3 tomatoes (the best you can find), about 12 to 16 ounces total
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 1/2 tablespoons Spanish olive oil, plus more for toasting bread
- Fine sea salt
- 2 pieces of focaccia or other crusty bread, 1 inch thick
- Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
- Thinly sliced Jamon Iberico de Bellota, if desired
Cut tomatoes in half, and, using a box grater within a bowl, grate the meat of the tomatoes all the way down to the skin (compost the skin or save it for another use). Using a Microplane, shave garlic cloves into the tomato mixture. Add olive oil and stir to combine. Season liberally with sea salt and let the mixture marinate while you prepare the griddle or pan.
Heat the griddle or sauté pan to medium. Once hot, add olive oil and bread to pan. You should have enough olive oil to fully coat the underside of the bread. Once bread is golden brown, flip it, add more olive oil if necessary, and begin toasting the other side. When bread is toasted, remove from heat and drain on paper towels.
Spoon tomato mixture on top of toast in a thick layer, then season with more olive oil and fleur de sel. If desired, gently mound Jamón Ibérico on top of pan con tomate and serve.