The growing up years had us notice that overflowing pot of holy basil or tulsi tucked away in a designated corner, basking in the backyard sunshine. The sharp fragrance of this sacred herb seemed to linger everywhere, in the striking yet not unpleasant taste that freshened the mouth on an after-dinner stroll, or the faintly menthol-tinged fingertips that dealt with the leaves. Apart from that prized spot in the pooja thali, a sprig or two of tulsi usually found its way into a moderately spiced, gingery tea to help tummy troubles or, in crushed, pasty form, to assuage blotchy teenage skin. There weren’t many home remedies that didn’t include a fresh picked bunch of tulsi leaves, or too many ailments for which grandma did not approve of its remedial powers.
We hadn’t seen our moms use it in their cooking though, so when we first encountered its popular culinary cousin, the sweet summery basil, we fell in love with its crisp aroma and the heady, minty, anise-like notes it infused in our regular pastas and pizzas. Slowly basil graduated from being just a pretty garnish to a full-fledged ingredient in our kitchen experiments, coolly and often replacing the old standby – cilantro (coriander) in our curries, stir-fries and chutneys. And it’s in a similar vein that we were inspired, one serene Sunday morning, to toss in a cupful of basily goodness into a bowl of whipped eggs, into which were dipped slices of whole-grain bread, to be fried up into savory French Toasts. Topped off with a few dainty cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of salty Parmesan, it easily became our quintessential summer breakfast.
Basil Summer Toast
- 3 Eggs
- 1/3 Cup milk
- 1 Cup basil leaves, loosely packed
- Salt to taste
- 2 Pinches crushed red pepper
- Fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 Slices whole-wheat bread, halved
- Olive oil to fry
In a wide, flat-bottomed dish, beat the eggs together with the milk. Put the basil leaves into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, or chop by hand. Add these to the egg mixture along with the salt, peppers, cheese and tomatoes. Stir well.
Preheat a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Dip a piece of bread briefly into the egg mixture, scooping up lots of the basil on top. Place this carefully in the hot oil. Add another piece of bread the same way. Using a spoon, fish out some of the tomatoes and add to the pan. Once the bread is browned on one side, turn it and cook the other side. Remove the toast and tomatoes from the pan, plate and keep warm or serve right away. Fry the remaining bread, adding more oil to the pan, as needed.
Give a light, summery feel to your plate with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan, some freshly cracked pepper and a few leaves of fresh basil.