Grilled bread with thyme pesto, lemon cream, and a fried egg

June 10, 2010 § 16 Comments

Okay, before my perpetually wandering mind meanders off into some story or digression, let me make sure I get my main point across right away.  And that is: do not rest until you make this sandwich!! It is unbelievable.  I may henceforth reserve the word luscious to be used only in describing this sandwich.  It came to me in a passing flash of inspiration, and I’m so glad I trusted the inspiration enough to follow it.  Lemon, thyme, and garlic are one of the all time great flavor combinations – woodsy, tangy, nutty bright – and the textures combine crispy, crunchy, and creamy while the fabulously goopy egg pulls everything together in one delightful, messy sandwich perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

I took one bite, held it up to my face and asked it, “where have you been all my life?” (Yes, I have that kind of relationship with sandwiches)  I polished it off, and just sat there kind of hugging myself in (slightly smug) sensory glee.  The thyme pesto and the lemon cream are steps that take some more effort than one might generally expect to have to put into sandwich making.  But, be not deterred!  They’re still quite easy (each only takes a few minutes to pull together), and then you’ll have extra spreads that will last a couple of weeks in the fridge so you can keep making more and more and more sandwiches!  (Or add them to pasta, or grilled meats or fish.)

And now I must digress.  I’ve been listening to some philosophy lectures on CD for fun, because that’s just the kind of girl I am, and the speaker (Jack Kornfield) is a wonderful (albeit mildly soporific) storyteller and he told a story of an old, old man who had lived and farmed in a little valley all his life.  Now, he had never in his life been on an airplane, and so, for his eighty-somethingeth birthday, his grandchildren decided to hire a pilot and take him on a flying tour of the area, so he could see the farm and the valley from the sky.  The old man wasn’t too sure about this, he was kind of scared of flying, which was part of why he never had gone up in a plane.  But, the grandchildren convinced him, and he went.  The pilot took them on a wonderful flight, soaring through the air, making sure to fly above the farm so the old man could see it.

When they had landed, the grandchildren asked, “how did you like it grandpa?  Did you like flying and seeing everything from waaay up in the air?”  Yes, he had.  “And were you scared grandpa?” They wanted to know.

“No, you know,” he said, “I wasn’t too scared, once we had taken off and were up in the air.  I kind of stopped being so scared.  However,” he continued, “I still didn’t quite trust the airplane to stay in flight.  So, I never fully put all my weight down on my seat.”

And, isn’t that just what we do with life?!  We never fully put our weight down, in spite of the fact that there isn’t anywhere else to put our weight.  We don’t fully trust life.  We always want a contingency plan.  Sure we need to be responsible, but there’s a line between responsibility and white knuckling our lives.  And it can be surprisingly hard to distinguish.

Now, what has this to do with grilled egg sandwiches or thyme pesto and lemon cream?  Well, nothing really, at least nothing that I’ve thought of.  I just really liked that story.  Now, go! Get to work making this sandwich!

The recipes for thyme pesto and lemon cream make way more than you need for a single sandwich.  But, it would be hard to make them in small quantities, and you can store them in airtight containers in the fridge for quite a while and keep using them.  Also, I realize that not everyone has preserved lemons around, but you might want to consider it because they are delicious.  I love them!  You can find them in Middle Eastern specialty food stores, or they’re actually pretty easy to make yourself (but they take some waiting time):  just drop a few whole lemons in boiling water and let them blanch for about 5 minutes.  Take them out and let them cool, then cut each lemon into 8ths. Toss the lemons with ½ cup or so of Kosher salt, then pack them with the salt into a jar.  Fill the jar with enough lemon juice to cover the lemon pieces.  Set aside for 5 days, shaking the jar once a day.  After 5 days, add a big splash of olive oil to the jar and move it to the refrigerator.  The lemons are now ready to use in all manner of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes, and will keep for a good long time.  You can use the peel and all!

Grilled bread with thyme pesto, lemon cream, and a fried egg

Thyme pesto: (this part of the recipe you can easily halve, I’m just putting in the proportions I use when I make it)

  • 2 cups baby spinach, torn to pieces
  • ½ cup fresh thyme leaves (remove the leaves from their stick-like stems)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts, or almonds)
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  1. Combine all the ingredients except olive oil in a food processor, and process until they are all chopped together.  Then, with the food processor running, pour the olive oil in, in a single stream and process until you have a thick spread-like consistency. Remove to a jar or other storage container.  (Like basil pesto, you can also freeze this pesto in an ice cube tray, then take out and defrost a cube or two at a time for use).

Lemon cream:

  • ½ cup crème fraiche or sour cream (or even Greek yogurt)
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped preserved lemon (if you can’t get preserved lemons, in a pinch you can use a teaspoon or so of lemon zest, a squirt of lemon juice, and a generous sprinkling of salt)
  1. Combine crème fraiche and lemon together in a small bowl and allow to stand for at least a half hour to combine flavors.

To make the sandwich:

  • A thick slice of good quality peasant bread – like an Italian country bread
  • 1 egg
  • thyme pesto
  • lemon cream
  1. Lightly brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and grill over a grill for a minute or two per side, until it starts to get crispy and darkened on the outside.  (You can also just toast the bread, but I was incredibly happy with the smokey, slightly burned flavor that grilling the bread imparted.  You can kind of grill it over the flame of a gas stove too, to avoid having to start a grill – just be careful not to start any fires.) 
  2. Spread your toasty bread with pesto, then smear a nice dollop of lemon cream on top of this.  Fry the egg, preferably leaving the yolk runny, put on top of the bread and spread.  Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!  (Also, if you, for some reason, have some asparagus to grill too, add it!  It would be so good!)

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