Let me back up. I spent two weeks in the beautiful and remote Extremadura region of Spain last October. (I will eventually write about my wonderful experiences there, but let's stick to the story.) The plan from there was to catch a bus to Madrid and get on an EasyJet flight to Basel, Switzerland, where I would hop a train to an apple farm.
Looong stupid story short, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, but the line was ridiculously long and the man behind the counter was taking his sweet time, and by the time I got to the front of the line, they said it was too late for me to board. There were no more flights to Basel until more than a day later and I would have to pay for it again.
While crying hysterically, I noticed that there was a flight leaving for Toulouse in a few hours. Seeing as I had to buy a ticket somewhere, this seemed like the best option, so I called Lisa, and told her I was coming back to Montpellier.
Hours later, when she met me at the Gare de Montpellier-Saint-Roch, we were wearing the same outfit. I love good friends.
Usually when I went to Montpellier after being away, I gave Lisa some sort of food related gift, but since I didn't know I would be seeing her, I didn't have anything. (I did buy her some ham flavored chips at the airport) She said it was okay that I didn't get her a Spain souvenir, since...guess what! We were going to hitch to Barcelona in two days with our friend Alissa. (It's only a five hour drive from Montpellier) Was I okay with that? She assured me that we would do it on the cheap, and soon enough I found myself making hitching signs on the blank insides of old cereal boxes...
When we finally arrived, we were exhausted and of course, ravenous. We dropped our backpacks in our hostel, and decided to go get tapas with some of the other girls in our room. (A lovely pair of sisters from Mexico!) We were presented with plate upon plate of absolutely amazing dishes and pitchers of sangria. Cured ham, manchego cheese, patatas bravas, pan tomate, pimentos de Padron, creamed mushrooms on toast, chorizo...it was heaven. Especially for girls who had eaten their lunch on the side of the road! (I can't complain, actually. We found a pomegranate tree.)
The food was fantastic and so was the atmosphere. It was such a treat for me to go out to dinner, so it felt really special. Such a great way to start a superb weekend in this dynamic city. We spent our days walking until our feet hurt (which just meant siesta time!) and our evenings enjoying good food, wine, and the vibrant personality of the area. We went to the Picasso Museum- it's free on the first Sunday of every month, which we were delighted to discover...the line wrapped around the block but it was worth it. It also happened to be Halloween weekend when we were there. We spent our Halloween drinking calimoxo (red wine and Coke) by the water and then bar-hopping. We made friends. We sang on the Ramblas in an attempt to pay for our hostel. (Not the most successful busking adventure I've had, but both an old man and a living statue sang along with us, which made it allll worth it.) We watched a live crayfish leap off an overflowing stall of seafood at the Mercat de La Boqueria. A woman attempted to steal Alissa's wallet but took her camera case and we caught her anyway, since she didn't even try to walk away. (Worst pickpocket ever?!?)
Wow, I am rambling on and on and this doesn't even begin to cover the fun that went on that weekend. But let's talk food.
It may not be fancy, but pan tomate is one of my favorites. It is so simple. It's a typical Catalan dish consisting of ingredients you probably have in your own kitchen; bread, oil, garlic and tomato....what's not to love?
I had other versions of it in other regions of Spain, but this is what I had more than once that weekend in Barcelona. It's fresh tasting and flavorful. If you're serving tapas, this is something that you can add to your table with pretty much no thought.
A slice or two of bread- a nice country loaf is good. Cut thick slices.
A clove of garlic, unpeeled, sliced in half and lightly scored
A ripe tomato, cut in half
Good quality olive oil
PreparationToast the bread. You can do this over a grill or in a toaster. I imagine sizzling it in olive oil would also be fantastic, but I think this is actually the authentic way. (But I am not sure. Don't quote me on that!)
When the bread comes out of the oven, rub the garlic all over the bread. Don't overdo it, as it's raw and you don't want a harsh taste!
Take the tomato and rub it generously over the bread. Use as much as you can without making the bread soggy!
Drizzle your olive oil over. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and you are good to go!
How simple? It's so good. You can really use any kind of bread. Baguette works fine. I did it sometimes on the kibbutz with sandwich bread. It's just a tried and true Mediterranean flavor combination that pleases the tastebuds!
Enjoy! And ps...I've got another tapa for you tomorrow...