Breakfast is arguably the best meal of the day, especially when whipped up on Sunday mornings in the comfort of your own kitchen with your PJs on and your husband rubbing his eyes sleepily and sitting with you while you cook. Last Sunday we made fried eggs on toast with french-style pistou.
A pistou is a simplified pesto. It skips the pine nuts and the cheese and relies entirely on fresh basil, olive oil, and a tiny bit of garlic. We used the remains of our potted herb garden basil. I cannot tell a lie, we were bad herb gardeners this year. The summer was so hot, and well, we were lazy waterers, and the result has been a sub-standard herb garden. Our parsley is a bit yellow, the rosemary and sage haven't grown an inch, and our thyme has shriveled to nothing. The basil is the only plant growing, and we let it get so big and unwieldy that it has become hard to use at all. It is almost like a mini tree at least two feet high, with hefty trunk-like stems with little to no foliage. It featured an abundant, top-heavy flowering of new leaves up top, but I think the new leaves block the light for the lower branches, perpetuating the unfortunately bare stems. All in all the plant had lost its functionality as a ingredient-producing garden and had grown into a bit of an eyesore and a constant reminder of our poor gardening skills.
So last weekend I made a dramatic move. I cut nearly the whole plant back. I just took my scissors and - whack-whack-whack - trimmed off all of the giant branches of leaves away, leaving a tiny plant behind. Sam was upset. After all, he is a sensitive soul, and the idea of killing away a portion of a living thing that we are responsible for can be upsetting to sensitive types. But the good thing is that his sensitivity led us to save my trimmings, and as a result we had a lot of basil to make pistou. And pistou is simple and delicious.
The word pistou means pounded in French. Traditionally, the ingredients are crushed and mixed together in a mortar with a pestle. We used a mini food processor. The dish hails from the Provencal region of France. It can be used in soups, or as a spread on bread or served over pasta. But for our breakfast, we served it with eggs over toast.
Poached Eggs and Parmesan Cheese Over Toast with Pistou
1/3 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 small garlic clove
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs
2 1/2-inch-thick slices brioche or egg bread, toasted
Parmesan cheese shavings
Puree basil, garlic, and oil in mini processor until very smooth. Season pistou to taste with salt and pepper.
Add enough water to medium skillet to measure 1 1/4 inches. Sprinkle salt generously into water. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs 1 at a time and gently slip into water. Cook until egg whites are just set and egg yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.
Place hot toasts on plates. Top each with Parmesan. Using slotted spoon, transfer 2 eggs, well drained, to each piece of brioche. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of pistou and serve.