Last night I walked past my neighbor’s garden, delightfully overwhelmed by the perfume of basil in the air. “Liguria!” I thought, and went directly to make these eggs, a delicious, and transporting, midnight treat. Liguria is home to Genoa, the great port; Santa Margherita, the great resort; The Cinque Terre, the lovely hill towns perched along the Mediterranean Coast; and basilico, the fragrant leaf made famous in pesto. As I had been lucky enough to eat pesto in Liguria, I could happily, so happily, recall the taste: basil, yes, but also maybe mint? And maybe lemon? Certainly not much garlic – the miss-step often made when making pesto at home (unless your home is in Liguria.) The garlic – 1 small/medium clove per bunch of leaves – should only make the simplest of sauces slightly more complex. And do toast the pine nuts before you use them, for the extra nuttiness it brings. As I had eaten pesto made from Larry’s basil not two nights ago, I had a few precious tablespoons jar in the refrigerator. And – Ligurians would shame me! – I had a few lousy, but tasty, slices of deli Provelone, too. I scrambled some eggs, and went again to Liguria.
Scrambled Eggs with Pesto and Provolone
2 eggs, or 3 a soupspoon of pesto, or more 3 slices Provelone (Swiss is too sharp) 1 ½ tablespoons cold butter (really cold) 2 tablespoon cream salt
Cut one tablespoon of butter into 10 or 12 little squares. (The butter makes for creamy curds.) In a small skillet, melt ½ tablespoon of butter slowly over low flame while you scramble the eggs, cream, and a sprinkle of salt. Mix the butter cubes into the eggs, and pour the eggs into the skillet, raising the flame slightly. Let them almost set, and then move them around in the pan using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, so the liquid egg runs to the bottom of the pan. Don’t let the eggs cook too much, keep them wet. Ad the pesto, and give it a swirl. Melt the cheese on top. Serves 1.
Bottled pesto can be really good, if you buy a good bottle, imported from Italy. (The bottles are small; you only need about 3 tablespoons of sauce, and 1 of butter, for a pound of pasta.) But pesto is easy to make, and worth the minutes it takes, so make a few portions at a time if you like. (Put some in a clean jar, and film the top with olive oil before closing the lid tightly. Keeps refrigerated for more than a week.)
Basil leaves vary in size, so quantities are approximate. Let your taste be your guide.
1 bunch basil leaves, rinsed and dried by rolling in a clean dish towel (about 12 stems) 1 small/medium clove garlic, peeled and trimmed (if the clove has a green, sprouting core, discard it. Better to find a younger, milder clove) ¼ pine nuts, toasted ¾ cup olive oil, why not best quality from Liguria? ½ – 1 cup freshly grated parmaggiano regiano (romano is too sharp) salt
Rinse the basil in a tub of cold water, and pick the leaves from the wet stems; discard the stems. Put the leaves in a loose, single layer on an open dishtowel, and roll it up to dry them. Toast the pine nuts in a small, dry cast iron skillet: roll them around over medium-high heat – keep your eye on them! Toast, don’t brown or burn. Measure the oil into small pitcher or measure with a spout. Grate the cheese, to taste. (You don’t want a pasty sauce, however. You want some creaminess only, and some salt.) Put half the leaves, the garlic, the nuts and ¼ olive oil in a blender, and combine well. Put in the rest of the leaves, and the grated cheese. Pour remaining oil in a stream through the top of the blender, adjusting the speed and scraping the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. The pesto should not run, but not so thick that it forms a solid mass. Add oil as needed. Taste for salt, and ad by ¼ teaspoons, or with cheese, until you like it. Makes about 1 cup sauce.