The title of this particular blog post might appear a little steep coming as it does from someone who regularly posts entries with complicated recipes, sometimes with many intricate steps... and sometimes, but not always, introduces processes which can last up to a month ( entry "Grow your own Indian picnic" a point in case).
However, here we are. And yes,today I want to write on the topic, 'Simple is best' and to make a case for pure, unadulterated simple...simplicity.
It all started during a recent trip to the beautiful Montseny region close to the Catalonian capital Barcelona.
The combination of the lovely company of a dear old friend, the soft spring sunshine, fresh air, mountains, sparkling sea - a meditation in a monastery with a rebel monk... and a visit to Cadaques ( must visit place if you are ever in that region) helped blow away the cobwebs of the winter months.
They say 'travel broadens the mind' and still after many years and many journeys, I find this, in essence, to be true. Even a short trip away,a little change of circumstances can trigger new ideas, fresh thoughts...and inspire new ways of thinking not only about life in general , but also about food!
And I love this. Especially to discover something a little different. Especially because these days we live in a world where if you stay at least close to any normal large city, you can experience, try and buy almost anything from any part of the globe.
So to discover something a little different, even if only in the particular combination - and for it to be so utterly simple, is somehow, at least in my books Something.Very.Exciting.
So yes, today's recipe is VERY simple.
It contains only 4 ingredients. And there is absolutely no cooking involved.
The food I'm going to introduce you to today is a typical traditional Catalonian recipe - enjoyed and savored down the Iberian ages.
I like that, too.
It's called, 'Pan con Tomate' or to more exact in Catalonian, 'Pa amb tomaquet'. :-) If you have a feel for Spanish, Italian or any Latin language you might already be able to work out what that means and you might also be asking the question, is that all? Just bread and tomatoes? You are writing a whole blog entry on just bread and tomatoes??
And well... yes...
And I love this! I love it because of it's utter simplicity!
Of course, when working with such few ingredients, not only is 'simple best'... but exactly because so few ingredients are involved, it is of the utmost importance that each ingredient is 'simply the best' you can find.
The full 'pan con tomate' experience involves 4 ingredients.
BREAD, GRATED TOMATOES, SALT AND OLIVE OIL.
Choose the most delicious slice of bread you can find and lightly toast it on both sides. A rustic Ciabatta, a slice of sourdough... or even better make your own ( if you missed my post on 'before bedtime bread' head right over and give it a try). You won't regret it!
Then, tomatoes. You need to choose the most deliciously smelling, slightly soft to the touch tomatoes you can find.
It's March here in northern Europe - not a great time for finding delicious tomatoes. However, I found a lovely box of 'Romana tomatoes' on the vine that smell and taste divine. They should have the sweet smell like when you put your nose into the leaves of a tomato plant on a hot summers day. No sweet smell - don't buy.
The next ingredient is olive oil. Here I would encourage you to use the best oil you can afford. Even if it's just a small bottle of something a little more special. Head to your local Italian deli and pick out a variety that tastes of the Mediterranean. I find bottles where the label is only written in the language of the country the oil comes from, are invariably the best.
If you are able to visit a specialist oil shop, where you can try and taste and choose for yourself, even better.
The oil should taste great.
Finally, the cherry on the topic of the cake is...sea salt.
Again, choose a special salt variety if you can. I love Maldon sea salt flakes - a small sprinkle and there you have it!
You could add a small bowl of olives and a slice of cheese if you want to fill it out.
However, just bread and tomatoes tastes divine and the simplicity of it all allows each of the separate parts to sing it's own song and be heard... without being drowned out by the other elements.
Kind of a musicians dream. :-)
So - here's the recipe - a lovely simple very-few-step one today! yeh!
INGREDIENTS (for two slices)
2 thick slices of delicious bread eg. sourdough / homemade
6 small deliciously sweet smelling romana tomatoes (or 3 normal ones)
a dash of the best olive oil you can find
a sprinkle of sea salt flakes (if you can find Maldon, they are fab)
- grate the tomatoes into a bowl and throw away the skins
- very lightly toast your bread on both sides
- add a spoonful of tomatoes
- drizzle with oil
- sprinkle with salt
- see - I told you it was simple!
FOOTNOTE: while on the topic of keeping things simple, if you fancy a little something sweet for afters, why not throw together another amazingly simple and delicious Catalonian combination?
Mel i mató! It's basically an unsalted homemade cream cheese, served with a drizzle of honey and a few walnuts.
To make it from scratch, you simply need a litre of milk and juice of one lemon. Bring the milk to the boil, take off the heat, squeeze in the lemon and allow to curdle. Then squeeze through a cloth until you have a little lump of fresh cheese.
Cool for a few hours in the fridge then drizzle with honey and serve with walnuts!
For a not totally traditional but okay alternative do as I did in the photos, use a few spoons of Riccotta cheese - it's not exactly the authentic version. But very delicious, all the same.
So that's it for today folks. A case for simplicity.
And let's face it, these days we could do with a little of the simple things, now and then.
For I find that hidden within the simple is a blueprint for something that can nourish the soul in a deep way.
As though just by paring things down to their roots, one also comes in touch with ones' own roots and unencumbered by the periphery, the soul's quiet voice, is more likely to be heard.
Here's to enjoying the simple things in life!
Take care and until next time,