By David Tanis

New York Times News Service

Garlicky Tomato Toast (Pan Con Tomate)

Servings: 4 to 6

Preparation time: 30 minutes

3 or 4 very ripe medium tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)

4 to 6 large slices sturdy sourdough bread, about 1/2-inch thick

4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

Basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

1. Cut 2 tomatoes in half crosswise. Place a box grater in a shallow bowl and grate the tomato flesh from the cut sides, pushing through the large holes. You should have 1 cup or so of coarse tomato purée. Set purée aside, and discard tomato skins.

2. Cut remaining large tomatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Set aside.

3. Toast the bread until nicely browned and crisp. (Toasting over a charcoal grill yields a rich, smoky flavor, but a toaster, toaster oven or broiler works just as well.)

4. With your fingers, rub the top of each toast with a garlic clove. You will see the cloves get smaller as the garlic is dispersed, pushed into the bread. (For a less garlicky toast, press lightly when rubbing.)

5. Place toasts on a platter or individual plates. Spoon and spread a heaping tablespoon of tomato purée over each toast. Then arrange tomato slices and cherry tomatoes randomly on top.

6. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil per toast. Garnish with whole or torn basil leaves, if using.

Right now, as high summer hits, and with it, an abundance of fresh, vibrant tomatoes, some version of tomatoes on toast is a very good idea. It could be a classic American BLT for lunch, or perhaps a platter of small Italian tomato-topped bruschetta to serve with drinks.

My current favorite combination takes cues from Barcelona, where a spectacular slice of toast is rubbed with garlic and juicy ripe tomatoes, then anointed with olive oil. Called pan con tomate in Spanish (pa amb tomàquet in Catalan), it’s beloved throughout Catalonia.

Many Catalan cooks simply cut a tomato crosswise and vigorously massage the garlic-rubbed toast with the cut side until red and juicy. Others grate the tomato flesh to make a coarse purée, pushing it through the big holes of a grater, then spooning it over the bread. (Some season the purée with garlic, olive oil and salt.)

On a recent trip to Barcelona, I saw both methods used. Everybody there eats tomato bread, and typically at every meal. At restaurants, it’s the first thing you order, often with an accompaniment of fat anchovy fillets or a plate of hand-cut Spanish ham. In Catalan homes, it makes for an easy and welcome snack any time of day.

Of course, tomato bread is eaten throughout all of Spain, but in the Catalan region, it has attained cult status. Originally, old, dry bread moistened with tomato and oil was a pauper’s way of making it palatable. (Stale bread was never wasted, so it also went into soups or was turned into breadcrumbs.) Even today, day-old sliced bread is still revived in this manner.

It couldn’t be easier: First, toast some bread until nicely golden and crisp. Rub a peeled garlic clove over the top of each slice. Then, spread a heaping tablespoon of grated tomato purée over each slice, sprinkle generously with salt, judiciously with pepper and extravagantly (a good tablespoon per toast) with extra-virgin olive oil.

My version adds a few tomato slices and cherry tomatoes arranged randomly over the top. Excessive? Perhaps, but with the current abundance of ripe tomatoes, it seems a reasonable gesture.

Serve these tomato-topped beauties as a substantial first course or as part of a light summer lunch. Or take the Catalan approach and offer tomato toast at every meal.