last night’s theme: sage

sage
adj \ˈsāj\
1: wise through reflection and experience
2: proceeding from or characterized by wisdom, prudence, and good judgment
noun
1: one (as a profound philosopher) distinguished for wisdom
2: a mature or venerable man of sound judgment

Like any other kind of wisdom, kitchen wisdom is earned through a combination of experience, study, and circumstance. I have a few years’ experience with sage, mostly in its capacity to amplify mushrooms in any dish that features them (as in: add sage, and that’s DOCTOR Mushroom to you). The little research I’ve done has mostly consisted of exploring online recipes and deciding that sage has been typecast as arm candy for butter, butternut squash, and meat. Not that there’s anything wrong with typecasting. In fact, after some consideration I decided that my cooking might benefit from a little bit of due diligence in the conventional-flavor department.

Then again, I’m the same woman who faithfully types addresses into Google maps, only to decide that the directions it spits out are ill-advised; who thinks that every one of her mistakes (including getting lost while driving) is a cosmic hint from Meletē; who thinks that the best way to turn boredom into fun is to muzzle her internal editor and see what happens. So no, I’m not a big fan of following instructions, if only because it’s way more satisfying to off-road one’s way to a job well done.

Is this sagely? Certainly not. Does it make cooking dinner way more interesting? You betcha. So when I made dinner for JM and Lara, both cooking stars in their own right, I decided that I would toe this line between sage and screwball by following the recipe–my way.

Roasted Golden Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Spinach

A typical recipe with a few idiosyncrasies: goat cheese marinated in oil and spices, currant-flavored balsamic vinegar reduction used as dressing, and a sprinkling of crushed pink peppercorns instead of chopped walnuts.

Sage Farinata (adapted from Sunset magazine’s version)

If I was going to do this again, I would fry the sage leaves first. I also used a red onion instead of a regular one, and about a cup of water instead of the full cup and a half called for in the recipe. More oil in the pan would have made the edges a bit more golden and a bit less brown, and less time in the oven by about 3-5 minutes would have done the same.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter Sage Sauce (adapted from Love and Olive Oil’s version)

I replaced half of the wheat flour in this recipe with soy flour, and doubled the quantities of brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Warning: the resulting dough will both smell and taste awful, so much so that you might, like me, be tempted to start all over again. But don’t. It cooks up beautifully, and tastes Just Like The Real Thing. I also roasted the sweet potato instead of microwaving it. Warning: do not–I repeat, do not–attempt to rinse caramelized yam juice off a Pyrex pan while it’s still hot. It’s like a car accident in your sink (and when I say “your,” I mean “JM’s”).

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