Looking for Sage Advice
In the spring, my dear friend Jennifer with the green thumb gave me a big pot of culinary herbs as a housewarming gift. Containing a mix of rosemary, lemon thyme and sage, the pot went straight to the back deck, joining the lavender and oregano.
All summer long, I snipped sprigs from my lively herb garden and brought them into the kitchen for extemporaneous bursts of color and flavor, throwing them in everything from vinaigrettes to garnish.
Snip there I'd go again with the oregano, the thyme and my newly sprouted basil. But the sage, which was growing like crazy, was largely ignored, and frankly, other than Thanksgiving stuffing, I was at a loss over what to do with it.
It was a shame, really, because sage (aka salvia officinalis) is quite beautiful and fragrant in a men's cologne sort of way. It even feels nice between my fingers, almost velvety to the touch. Yet, I couldn't get past my reticence, and the sage plant, left to its own devices, has taken over the pot, practically pushing out the lemon thyme.
Now I've got so much sage I really must get over my trepidation and start cooking. But before I get started, I'd like your advice: How should I play with my sage?
It's been years since I fried sage leaves in brown butter to top off a bowl of ravioli, but I'm thinking I want to expand my sage-y horizons.
I had a very good pizza recently at Liberty Tavern, a new spot in Clarendon. The thin crust was topped with cheddar cheese, thinly sliced apple and sage, a mÃ©lange of fat, sweet, acid and savory that really works. Now I'm inspired to replace the rosemary in my savory apple pie recipe with yes, some of that sage.
Bobby Flay, in his "Bold American Food," a book I bought well before cooking school was even on my radar, suggests sage aioli, a different take on the classic garlic mayo as well as sage pesto, which I'm game to try -- a gentle puree of sage, garlic, nuts (I'm thinking walnuts) and olive oil. He uses the pesto to flavor white beans, which sounds like a winner, and I'm thinking how nice it would pair up with roasted chicken, a bowl of polenta or a plate of slow-roasted tomatoes.
Jeff Cox in "The Organic Cook's Bible" suggests minced sage, parsley and onions in a batter for onion rings. Hmmm, sage in one's batter - wonder how they work for fried chicken? Or savory pancakes?
Due to allergies, I can no longer eat mushrooms, but I'm wondering if anyone has done a sage and mushroom combo, sauteed with shallots, then mixed with goat cheese, thrown into a bowl of short pasta. Sounds nice, no?
So help a girl out and give me your best sage shot, folks. Share your favorite ways of playing with sage in the comments area below.
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