Tomato Bread Jaleo Style

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

As we continue with along our fresh Tennessee tomato jag, let’s make some Tomato bread. Tomato bread might be the most pure, uncomplicated path for truly savoring the essence of fresh tomato.

On a summer trip to Las Vegas we were blown away by the simple approach to preparing food at Jaleo, one of the Spanish restaurants in James Beard Award-winning mastermind Spanish/American chef Jose Andres’ empire. “Pan con tomate” is a classic Spanish small plate that pairs beautifully with meats, cheeses, and olives. Simplicity can be so refreshing in that complex city. Tomato bread is a home cook’s home run when you’ve got great tomatoes. We couldn’t wait to try it out when we got home to Nashville where the Tennessee tomatoes are everywhere. 

Classic tomato bread recipes are usually as simple as brushing toasted bread with a cut fresh tomato. It’s important to note that brushing a piece of bread with a wet tomato requires a craggy, stout bread that can grab and hold bits of tomato, sort of like Velcro, without breaking up and dissolving.

Chef Andres’ tomato bread appeared to be spread with a thicker concentrate of tomato than the simple “cut and brush tomato” method. So, for the most full-bodied fresh tomato flavor, we seeded and pureed peeled fresh tomatoes and drained them for a while to extract most of the water. It’s an extra step, but it’s mostly just waiting a bit for the tomatoes to drain. Drain them an hour or, give them a day in the refrigerator; do whatever is convenient for you. Prepare the tomato mixture a day ahead so your tomato bread snack is ready for cocktails. 

Chef Andres imports fancy bread from Spain and his bread is mostly crust, like a potato skin. He’s not serving a thick slice of bread, which is much of the delicate appeal of this dish. The rest of us can make do with a crusty Tuscan loaf, or, for maximum crust, cut a thin ciabatta loaf into two thin halves. Make as much tomato spread as you like simply by increasing the amounts of tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. Add a generous dose of olive oil so that that the mixture is glossy. Salt at your discretion. You can always sprinkle the tomato toasts with additional coarse salt when serving.

Serve the tomato bread plain, or with an array of tapas like mixed olives, Serrano ham, cured sausages, and Spanish cheese like Manchego. 

We tried a plate of his mind blowing Ferran Adria-style liquid olives. Wow. They explode and dissolve in your mouth in a magical way. 

tomato bread

Tomato Bread Jaleo Style

2 ripe large tomatoes

Drizzle of olive oil

Salt, to taste

3 pieces baguette, ciabatta or crusty bread, about 4 to 5 inches long

1 large clove garlic, peeled

Dunk the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Remove them from the pot and cool slightly.

Remove the tomato skin. Cut the tomatoes in half and with your fingers scrape out most of the seeds.

Finely chop the tomatoes or whiz them up in a food processor until slightly chunky.

Place the tomatoes in a colander lined with cheese cloth or a fine mesh sieve. Allow to drain over a bowl for about an hour. If you want to drain them longer, do it in the refrigerator.

Place the tomatoes in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and stir to blend.

Cut the bread pieces in half horizontally so you have long thin pieces.

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