Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's cold now....

It is finally cold enough in Dallas for the time of the year. So the tomato season is over - replaced by "hot chocolate season".

No more pa amb tomaquet until next year :-(.

However hot chocolate made simply with milk and Mexican chocolate provides a similar degree of comfort!

Pa amb tomaquet.
A Catalunyan appetizer very simply made. Takes about 5 minutes - the longest part is the toasting of the bread.

A few slices of country bread - 3/8 inch thick - cut into planks about 3 inches wide
Some tomatoes preferably very ripe beefsteak
I clove garlic (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil (Spanish of course for this dish)
Large sea salt crystals
Thinly sliced Manchego cheese - cut in planks to match the shape of the bread (optional)

I buy my bread at the Breadhaus in Grapevine, TX. A bit of a trek, but fantastic bread and wonderful people.

I buy tomatoes at one of the nearby farmers' markets - always trying to get local produce. Since we go through so many of them, we always buy seconds. At about $1 per pound you can't go wrong. Sometimes you have to remove some nasty bits, but not often. They don't keep as long as the firsts - partly because they seem riper, and partly because they can be a bit bruised. Remember, of course, never to keep fresh tomatoes in the refrigerator.

Toast the bread - on a griddle preferably, but the toaster works too.
While the bread is toasting, cut the tomatoes in half around their equators (i.e. not through the stem end).
Do not bother to peel the garlic, but cut the garlic clove in half cross-wise (if using). When the bread is toasted on each side, rub the cut side of the garlic across the bread (optional step). Now press the cut side of a tomato into each slice of bread. Smoosh it around so some of the seeds and liquid permeate the bread. One tomato will do about 3 slices of bread (depending of course on the size of the tomato and the size of the bread!).
Once the bread slices are all coated with tomato, arrange them in layers on a plate, sprinkle the olive oil over them, and then a few large sea salt crystals top get an extra crunch.
If you are feeling especially decadent, lay a slice of Manchego on each - but it is pretty good all on its own!
Serve with a good rustic red wine, lots of people and you have a terrific evening started. Sadly though we will have to wait until the tomato harvest next year.

Hot Chocolate
This is Madame's favorite bed time drink - we have it during the winter instead of dessert. For 2 mugs of hot chocolate, heat together milk and 1/2 a tablet of Mexican chocolate (currently we are using Abuelita). The heating should be slow - the chocolate doesn't melt easily. Keep stirring throughout and don't let the mixture boil.
Pour into heated mugs (1/2 fill with water, microwave until hot - taking care because microwaved water can superheat and leap out of the mug when you move it).

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