Using Sage in Warming Winter Dishescomments (1) January 11th, 2010
For the next few weeks of wintry cold weather, I am going to talk about using the robust herbs in warming winter dishes. This should help to familiarize you with the hearty flavors of the robust herbs. I consider the robust herbs to be the strong-flavored woody-stemmed perennials such as oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, thyme. And of course garlic would have to be included here. By smelling and tasting these perennial plants, you will be inspired to use them to flavor your winter recipes. Hopefully, you will use these flavorful herbs in combination with foods of the season to create some of the warming winter dishes that are some of my favorites.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
|A sage plant in bud.|
|Sage can be grown indoors in pots. These plants are in need of pruning and transplanting.|
The associations of the meanings of sage and its homonym are linked in Latin as in English. The herb's name is from salvere "to be well," "to save," while the word relating to wisdom is from sapere "to taste," "to know." It is certainly wise to know sage well because, in addition to its traditional uses in sausages and with poultry, game, and liver, sage can add a rich and graceful note to vegetables, breads, and sweets.
Medicinal uses of sage
Sage's culinary use with rich dishes probably came from its reputation as a digestive. It was very highly held as a medicinal plant by the Greeks and Romans. Its principal use was as a calmative for the stomach and nerves. Regular use of sage tea was said to confer an even disposition to excitable natures and a healthy old age to everyone. Sage was especially recommended to older persons as it was believed to restore ailing memory and banish melancholy and depression. Swiss peasants and American Indians used sage as a dentifrice, first chewing a few leaves, then brushing the gums with a twig. In England, tea made with the leaves of clary sage, Salvia sclarea, was the common beverage until Chinese tea began to be imported. The English, in turn, introduced sage tea to the Chinese, who would exchange up to five bushels of Chinese tea for one bushel of sage. This tea is still drunk in China today.
Sage in the kitchen
|Sage adds a pungent kick to Pasta e Fagioli. Get the recipe...|
Common sage seems to keep its aroma and flavor through cooking and drying. Dwarf sage, white-flowered sage, and purple sage, are all handsome varieties of common sage, with good flavor and aroma. Pineapple sage, fruit-scented sage, and mint-leaved sage all belong to the sage family and have the familiar muskiness, with the added aromas that their names suggest. They lose a bit of their perfume when dried, and most of it when cooked. They do have their place in the kitchen when used in beverages and jellies, and with fruits and desserts.
Like most herbs, sage should be dried in a warm dry place away from sun. Once the leaves are completely dry they should be stored whole in airtight containers. Sage should be crumbled, never ground, as needed for cooking; grinding completely destroys the delicate lemony perfume and leaves the harsher resinous flavors.
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