Spanish Tomato Toast (pan con tomate)

Spanish Tomato Toast (pan con tomate)

8 slices sourdough or country-style bread, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
4 cloves garlic peeled and cut in half
4 small ripe red tomatoes cut in half*
Cruet of extra-virgin olive oil
Small bowl of coarse salt or sea salt

*For the best flavor, use vine-ripe tomatoes, preferably home grown ones. If not available, coarse home-made tomato sauce may be substituted or a good-quality canned tomatoes (ideally the pear-shaped ones), well-drained of their packing juices.

Grill the bread approximately 2 to 4 minutes per side on a barbecue or toast it lightly in the oven.

Once the bread is toasted, rub 1/2 clove of garlic, cut side of half, over the bread while still warm. Use a fresh piece of garlic for each slice.

Rub tomato (cut side) over the bread, pressing firmly to push the pulp into the bread, until the toast is covered with tomato; discard the skins and remaining pulp.

Drizzle olive oil over the bread and tomatoes; sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

There are two ways to serve tomato bread:

* The first is for the cook to do the rubbing and drizzling.

* The second is to provide each person with a clove of garlic, half tomato, cruet of oil, and bowl of salt and let him or her do the work. The second way is more fun.

Optional garnish, choose one or a combination:

* 1/2 cup green Spanish olives
   
* 12 anchovy fillets, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, drained, and patted dry
   
* 6 paper-thin slices Spanish ham or prosciutto
   
* 12 paper-thin slices Manchego

Makes 8 servings.