Light, fresh and amazingly fast. Breakfast in Tuscany or Italian Poached Eggs works on many levels – hot verses cold, creamy against a light acidic tomato bruscetta, plus the salty tang of prosciutto and earthy taste of olive combine to create harmony of simplicity.
Breakfast is perhaps my favorite meal, I suppose it’s no wonder my first foray into the kitchen was a charming bed and breakfast. It was never my intention to be the one doing the cooking, but when I found myself in a position of feeding people, every day, I drew on many of my favorite morning meals for around the world. As the owner of the Dragonfly Inn in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, I developed a reputation for an exceptional breakfast service. Classics like French Toast, a variety of muffin and scone recipes, and personal twists on egg dishes like this one fed guests over the course of my years as an innkeeper.
I love a savoury breakfast, packed with morning protein, it’s the best daylight burning fuel as far as I’m concerned. Breakfast In Tuscany, became a particular favorite in the late summer months when tomatoes were ripe on the vine and basil was plentiful in the kitchen garden. Guests would often walk in the early morning hours and catch me, gardening boots on, harvesting ingredients before service. ( Or posting with mutant sunflowers.)
Italy is one of my favourite travel destinations. Great food, amazing people, rich history and good wine. I’ve often felt I should have been born Italian. To my mind Italy has but one flaw; breakfast. To most Italian natives breakfast is a hurried affair – double espresso, two cigarettes, an argument over football (AKA soccer) and perhaps a rushed Cornetto… between smokes.
Every other meal in the day is slow and measured, lunch is followed by a siesta, even a ‘quick antipasto’ is enjoyed at a leisurely pace but not breakfast. This dichotomy in a culture where food and pleasure are synonymous always struck me as odd. I find it strange that in a place positively riddled with amazing breakfast-y ingredients it’s rare to find eggs, served with toasty bits of beautiful bread, cheese and pork products. I love a big breakfast, any time of the day.
This my answer to that gap in food culture. In my dream villa in Tuscany (or Piedmont, or the Amalfi Coast, I’m not picky) this would be one of the breakfasts I would serve, thus Breakfast in Tuscany became a staple of service in my time at the Dragonfly Inn. A Mediterranean twist on a classic Benedict but instead of English muffins -olive focaccia, instead of ham – prosciutto, and rather than the heaviness of hollandaise – fresh bruscetta.
Italian poached eggs makes for a stunning brunch, light lunch or mid-summer dinner. I often to pair it with fresh figs (in season), chunky bits of Parmesan and a drizzle of honey, served family style. By all means, relax and enjoy — but do argue over something while wildly gesturing with your hands, an Italian inspired breakfast just would not be the same without strongly held opinions!
- 2 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 small shallot, diced fine
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- handful fresh basil, chopped
- handful of fresh italain parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- dash red wine vinager
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 loaf olive ciabatta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 spices of prosciutto, sliced very thin
- 8 large very fresh eggs
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- fresh parsley to finish
- In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Fold gently to combine then season to taste and reserve to allow flavours to combine. Refrigerate if needed. This step can be done a day, or even two, in advance.
- Preheat oven to 400⁰F (205⁰C). Line baking sheet, with tinfoil. Slice bread into 8 medium thick slices, brush one side liberally with olive oil then place, oiled side down, on baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, bring approximately 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons white vinegar to a boil in a medium sized sauce pan.
- Separate prosciutto if needed and hold at room temperature. Ready your plates to one side then crack eggs, one at a time into ramekins or cups. (I usually prepare four at once for this step, and prepare the next round while the first cook.) Then prepare an ice water bath in a separate bowl large enough to accommodate all 8 eggs and set to one side.
- Once water comes to a boil place bread to toast in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature under your water to medium-high. Use your whisk to create a spinning whirlpool in the pot then quickly, slide eggs, one at a time, into the swirling water. This will prevent them from settling to the bottom and helps to wrap the white around the yoke to form a neat little bundle. Cook until desired doneness is achieved (3 - 5 minutes) Remove eggs, one at a time with a slotted spoon and transfer to ice water bath. Repeat with remaining eggs. Clear water of loose egg bits with slotted spoon and reserve water, hot.
- Remove toasted ciabatta from oven, place oiled side up on plates. Cluster a slice of prosciutto on each to form a neat little nest for the egg. Quickly bathe eggs in warm water before serving and lightly dry, on a waiting piece of paper town before placing each on the toast, topping with tangy fresh bruschetta and a splash of herbs.