Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sage Advice - Three Ways To Use A Versatile Herb

                                                                                                                                   Meet Sage...

Photo: Neurotic Kitchen
The accessible but pungent ancient Mediterranean herb with the friendly felt-like texture. 

With a soft, grey-green hue, sage makes a beautiful garnish, but its taste, distinct and earthy, makes it worthy of edible preparations. 

Sage is most often seen in homey dishes like oven roasted chicken.  Its very pronounced herbaceous flavor can overpower a dish, but when used sparingly, it's great.

Below, I've collected a few of my favorite recipes using sage, from a simple brown butter sauce, to an easy veggie side dish, to a crunchy sage garnish that heightens any humble dish to haute cuisine. 

Sage as a Sauce:
A popular way to incorporate sage into a sauce is by way of brown butter, often seen on pasta dishes such as pumpkin tortellini or butternut squash ravioli. Sage is a natural match to fall and winter vegetables, and sage brown butter sauce is a perfect addition to any pasta or dish that can stand on its own but could benefit from a buttery, savory kick that will not overpower its taste. Best of all, Sage Brown Butter Sauce is super easy and fast to make.

Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

If preparing for pasta - 1 pound fresh pasta such as pumpkin or squash ravioli or tortellini. 
1 stick of unsalted butter*  
6 fresh sage leaves  
Large pinch grated nutmeg  
Optional Additions: 2 amaretti cookies, chopped hazelnuts, grated parmesan
    *I've prepared this sauce for use over pasta using much less butter and it works just fine. Be sure to adjust your sage accordingly. To coat, simply toss pasta and butter sauce in a bowl to ensure sauce is thoroughly incorporated.

    Wash and dry sage and tear the sage leaves into small pieces. 
    In a small saute pan, melt the butter. 
    Allow butter to begin sizzling and allow it to begin to brown – you should actually see it change to a golden color. 
    Once this starts to occur, add sage leaves and fry for about 15-20 seconds. 
    Remove pan from the heat and stir in nutmeg. 
    Add a little salt and immediately pour butter sauce over the prepared pasta and sprinkle on any optional add-ons: chopped nuts (particularly hazelnuts), and grated amaretti cookies, or grated parmesan cheese.

    Sage-Spiked Side Dish:
    Roasted butternut squash with sage makes a nice accompaniment to oven baked meats such as pork or chicken.

    Preparing the Squash and Sage, Photo: NK
    Roasted Butternut Squash & Sage  
    Adapted from Food and Wine
    Serves 4

    2.5-3 lbs of butternut squash, peeled, and cut into a one inch dice.
    Two tablespoons olive oil, 12 Whole Sage Leaves.
    Black pepper and kosher salt.

    Preheat the oven to 425°. In a bowl, toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and sage and season with salt and pepper. Lay the squash and sage on a baking sheet in one single layer. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes tossing once half-way through, until tender and partially browned. 
    Transfer to a bowl and serve.

    Finished  Roasted Squash and Sage, Photo: NK
    Sage as a crispy Garnish:

    Fried Sage

    1 bunch fresh sage, or however much you desire for your recipe
    1/4 cup olive oil
    Coarse salt

    Wash the desired amount of sage sprigs and leave to dry completely.
    Pull off the leaves from the sprig.
    Heat oil in a small, high sided pan over medium-high flame until hot.
    Fry only up to 8 sage leaves at a time until crisp, 2–3 seconds.
    Remove quickly using a fork or small metal strainer, and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.
    Sage will crisp as it cools.

    Next up, what does an Englishman know about Spaghetti All'Arrabiata? 

    Apparently a lot. 
    Spaghetti All'Arrabiata with Fried Sage, Photo: NK 

    Take it from this Italian, Jamie's is one of the best versions of this spicy tomato sauce. I think the textural addition of fried, thyme scented breadcrumbs and crispy fried sage are what sends it over the top.

    Jamie Oliver’s Spaghetti All'Arrabiata with Fried Sage
    Adapted from the My Last Supper Cookbook by Melanie Dunea
    Serves 4

    7 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
    2 dried red chilies finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
    1 red onion, finely chopped
    3 14-oun cans of plum tomatoes, sieved
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 lb box of spaghetti
    1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
    3 tablespoons stale bread crumbs
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
    Fried sage leaves* Recipe above 

    Heat about 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. 
    Add the chilies, garlic and onion, cooking gently for about 3 minutes. 
    Add the tomatoes and let them cook until the sauce is quite thick, about 20 minutes.
    Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti in the salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
    Fry up sage leaves according to above recipe if using. Set aside on paper towel.
    Once the sauce has thickened, add the red vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Heat the remaining oil in another small pan over medium heat. 
    Add the bread crumbs and thyme and fry until the bread crumbs are crispy, for about 3 minutes.
    Add the drained pasta and the reserved pasta water to the sauce, and toss to coat. 
    Drizzle with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and serve with the breadcrumb and thyme mixture over the top. 
    Finish with a garnish of fried sage leaves.

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