Delicious Catalan "Pa amb tomaquet" with spanish ham "jamon serrano"
Mediterranean Food at its best
In Catalonia, "pa amb tomaquet" (bread with tomato) is an everyday food, as a sandwich for breakfast, but also as an everyday gourmet food at informal parties or familiy meetings.
To prepare a "pa amb tomaquet" is an easy thing, but to prepare a good "pa amb tomaquet", several very important tips have to be taken in mind:
- Good bread. It should be a bit hard, not very soft, because you need to rub the tomato against the bread, without breaking it. If the bread is too soft that it's impossible to rub the tomato without breaking it, try to toast the bread before.
- Good and juicy tomato. The best is a small tomato called "tomaquet de penjar" that is more liquid than solid.
- Good olive oil.
- And good "jamon serrano", iberic ham. Although you can combine "pa amb tomaquet" with almost every other solid or semi-solid meal, the star is "jamon serrano".
How to prepare a good pa amb tomaquet
Good olive oil
Olive oil is the oil obtained of the press of the olives. The best olive oil, called extra virgin olive oil, Is the oil obtained in the first press of the olives, so it's the most pure oil, the one with the best savour and flavors and the highest healthy properties.
Olive oil is the main ingredient of Mediterranean food, and some of its components, oleic acid, are known to be good at preventing blood diseases.
The olive oil has to be spread in one of the sides of the sliced bread. You need a good dispenser. Oil has to flow at a reasonable flow rate, not too fast to avoid to completely soak the bread.
Olive oil is well used to dress salades too.
Good jamón serrano
Choosing a good jamón serrano is a big deal. Jamon serrano are the legs of the pork, cured using a process that involves be covered with salt and hanged in an airy chamber whith controlled humidity during 5 to 18 months. The result is a delicatessen meal that tastes excellent and, consumed moderatelly, is proven to be healthy.
There are several qualifications attending their quality. The best quality is "iberico de bellota" and means that the pig's race is iberic pig and that the pig has been grown in freedom and feed exclusively with accorns.
Actually. jamon is a denomination for the rear legs of the pig. Front legs are called paleta or paletilla. Paletilla are considered to be of the same quality as jamon, but the resulting slices are narrower than those of jamon. When bought full, not sliced, a jamon is bigger than a paletilla and therefore the price is higher. Price per ounce, sliced or full is usually higher too in jamon.
Alternatives to jamon serrano
Pa amb tomaquet can also be accompanied with a sort of cheese of any kind, pates, sausages (like chorizo, butifarra, fuet or llangonissa) and also omelettes of everything (potatoes, asparagous, cheese, and so on).
Wine and other beverages
Pa amb tomaquet is best served with red wine. Merlot, low grade and smooth varieties are a good choice. Beer is not bad and water is good for everithing.
Variant with garlic, toasted bread or tomato free
Some people prefers the bread to be toasted first. With toasted bread, there is a variant where garlic is rubbed over the bread before the tomato. Toasting the bread, the bread becomes harder, facilitating to rub it over with garlic.
Bread toasted and rubbed with garlic, takes a slightly different taste and becomes healthier because garlic is one of the most important natural foods. Make a try.
Some people takes bread rubbed with garlic, salted and oil dressed, without rubbed tomato.
That's why in majority of restaurants that serve Pa amb tomaquet, serve toasted bread, garlic and tomatoes, salt and an olive oil can. The diners must build "pa amb tomaquet" putting it all together the way they like.
Health benefits of Pa amb tomaquet
In Catalonia nobody thinks "pa amb tomaquet" is healthy, because it's so good, that nobody needs to think it's also healthy. But if you think on the ingredients one by one you will easily figure out how healthy it is.
Bread: it's not specially healthy. It's just nutritious. There are a big shortage of bread types, attending the type of grain used to make the flour. Wheat, corn, soya, spelt. Nowadays, spelt is considered to be the most digestive bread. Spelt is a type of wheat, so the flavour of spelt bread is more or less the same as wheat bread. Some studies lead to consider that foods made with wheat tends to compromise the immune system.
Tomato: contains lycopene, a cholesterol lower and prostate cancer prevention,
Olive oil: contains oleic acid, a mono saturated omega-9 fatty acid. It is known to be hypotensive (reduces blood pressure).
Jamon serrano iberico de bellota (acorn fed) has the same health benefits as olive oil, because of the high proportion of oleic acid in its fat. This effect is achieved thanks to the pork's diet is acorn exclusive. In other kinds of jamon serrano "non acorn fed", this effect is not evident.
Garlic: is claimed be a powerful anitoxidant and a natural antibiotic, to help prevent heart disease (including artheosclerosis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure) and cancer. Garlic is used to prevent certain types of cancer, including stomach and colon cancers. In fact, countries where garlic is consumed in higher amounts, due to traditional cuisine, have been found to have a lower prevalence of cancer. Wikipedia dixit. It has only one secondary effect: halitosis.
Red wine: alcoholic beverages are to be consumed with responsibility. That means that a glass of wine per day is enough. Red wine contains resveratrol, a compound of grape skin, found at elevated concentration in red wine due to fermentation process. Moderated red wine consumption, thanks to resveratrol, lower risk of cancer and prevents heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Overconsumption of alcoholic drinks can led to a big shortage of illnesses and addictions, including cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, etc.