If you’ve had an herb garden for a while, you’ve probably found that some perennial herbs need to be cut back from time to time. That nice little sage plant you once planted is turning into a largish shrub that threatens to crowd out some of the less-vigorous species in your little kitchen garden. You can obviously hang the trimmings in bundles to dry, then rub them to a more compact powder – but, frankly how much dried sage are you ever going to use? You can give jars of it away to all your friends who cook – but eventually they’ll start treating you like one of those pariahs who surreptitiously abandon giant zucchinis on one’s doorstep in dead of night.
Here’s a solution that is ridiculously easy to prepare, will amaze your dinner guests, and might even have your neighbors begging for your pruning waste.
Ravioli with Fried Sage
Serves four-to-six as a main course
1 30-oz bag frozen cheese ravioli (or five dozen home-made ravioli)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 – 2 large branches of sage
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped or broken
1 cup gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Pick a few dozen of the nicest sage leaves from the branches and set aside. In a large pot of boiling salted water cook the ravioli. Frozen ones will take about fifteen minutes, fresh maybe five. You’ll know when they’re done when they all float and look like puffed-up pillows.
Meanwhile, melt the oil and butter in wide skillet. Add the pecans and cook until fragrant (don’t let them burn!). Remove them to a paper towel to drain, but do not discard the cooking fat.
Add the reserved sage leaves to the hot fat and fry until crisp. Remove the leaves to another paper towel, again saving the cooking fat. Take the skillet off the heat until the ravioli are cooked.
Add the drained, cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat with the savory fat. Season to taste, then pour onto a wide serving platter. Sprinkle the toasted pecans, sage leaves, and crumbled gorgonzola all over the top, and serve.
Note: This sounds like too much sage, but do not be tempted to reduce the amount called-for. When fried, sage leaves become much more subtle in taste – and take on a crisp succulence that is totally unexpected.
Gary Allen’s most recently published book, (this September), is Sausage: A Global History. The next one, Can It!: A History of Preserved Foods is soon to follow sometime next year. You can find more of his speculations about things he has been known to (but really shouldn’t) put in his mouth — his own foot being a prime example of the latter — on his website: onthetable.us