“Romaine? Like the lettuce?”
“Like the lettuce. And parsley, you make it into a pesto.”
“But not with basil?”
“No. And then you scoop out a tomato and you put it in the bottom and bake an egg in it.”
“I don’t know, Deb, it sounds kind of weird.”
“It does, right? I mean, pureed lettuce? Blech.”
“So why make it?”
“It’s calling to me.”
Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, and my husband — who was just going to grab some Murray’s Bagels for us — has pretty much given up trying to understand. But, I’ve had a whole week of errands, working late and after-work engagements and I haven’t had a single home-cooked anything since those wee tartlets and I was fiending for the kitchen by Saturday morning. Fiending.
Even walking to the store, I was wondering what I was getting into. Remembering Luisa’s horrendous spinach pesto experience, I wondered how the flavor of ground up Romaine lettuce could be any less flat, and to be honest, I’m not sure I see the point in making pesto with anything but basil because why mess with what works splendidly? Are we really that desperate for new foods to eat? But, I followed through and we are both very glad that I did.
The pesto really surprised me; that single clove of garlic, parsley and seasoning packed more flavor than I thought it would, but it was subtle enough not to overwhelm the tomato or eggs. (Alex said it tasted “green,” a word he also uses to describe the smell of my Aveda shampoo. I have only a vague understanding of what it means.) We liked it enough to spread some extra on ciabatta toast. I drew the line, though, at sautÃ©ing the lettuce like greens with pancetta, as even the photo accompanying the recipe made it look like slimy mess. I instead crisped up some prosciutto in a pan, my favorite form of “bacon”, and the whole thing came together pretty quickly. I’m totally saving this one for next time I have people over for brunch, and also as a reminder that sometimes, my hunches are wrong in a good way.
Romaine Pesto and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2006
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head romaine (about 1 1/2 lb) *
1 large garlic clove
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 oz finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
6 large tomatoes (about 3 inches in diameter)
6 large eggs at room temperature
Strip romaine leaves from stems, reserving both separately, then tear leaves into roughly 2-inch pieces. Measure 4 loosely packed cups of leaves and reserve remainder. With motor running, add garlic to food processor to finely chop. Turn off and add the 4 cups romaine leaves along with the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cheese, then pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add remaining cup oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut off about 1/8 inch from top of each tomato with a sharp knife.** Gently scrape out pulp and seeds with a spoon and discard them. Put tomatoes, cut sides up, in a 9-inch glass or ceramic dish and spoon 1 tablespoon romaine-parsley pesto into each tomato (you will have extra pesto). Crack 1 egg into each tomato and season with salt and pepper. Bake eggs in tomatoes until whites are set and yolks are still runny, 18 to 22 minutes.
* I didn’t use nearly this much lettuce. For one, I was only making four eggs, and two, I had a hunch this would make an egregious amount. I may have used 4-6 leaves, tops, and half the oil and parsley.
** I ended up beveling a little sliver off the bottoms, too, to stop them from rolling over in the dish and dumping out their eggs, and you may have guessed happened before I came up with my brilliant solution. Next time I’d put a droplet of oil underneath the beveled tomatoes, as they stuck a little to the bottom, something I should have also seen coming.