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Fried Sage Leaves

Salvia Fritta
Alla Borsa, one of my favorite restaurants, is in Valeggio Sul Mincio near Verona. It serves a wonderful antipasto of fried sage leaves - a crispy and delightful surprise, and very addictive. I eat them like potato chips. Make the batter at least 2 hours ahead of time to allow it to thicken sufficiently, and use only fresh sage leaves.

Serve with chips of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some cured olives, and a good Pinot Grigio wine. This makes a delicious and effortless beginning to an evening meal.

SERVES 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup King Arthur Flour™ unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unflavored sparkling water

16 fresh sage leaves, stemmed

Vegetable oil for frying

Fine sea salt

Directions

Sift the cornstarch and flour together into a small bowl. Stir in the sparkling water. Cover the bowl and let it stand for 2 hours.

Add the sage leaves to the batter and coat them well using a spoon.

Heat 1 cup vegetable oil in a heavy-duty saucepan until it reaches 375ºF. Use a thermometer to test, or drop a bit of the batter into the oil; if it browns immediately the oil is hot enough.

Drop the leaves a few at a time into the oil and fry them until they are golden brown. With a slotted wooden spoon, remove the leaves to a dish lined with paper towels.

Sprinkle the leaves with salt and serve hot.

A note about the use of sea salt: I prefer to use sea salt for cooking because it is a natural product, extracted from sea water through evaporation. Sea salt, unlike iodized salt, retains traces of nutritional mineral content and has a clean taste. I find I use less salt in recipes if I use sea salt than if I use iodized salt. Sea salts vary in flavor depending on where they are from; French sea salt, for instance, will have a decidedly different taste from Sicilian sea salt. Sea salt comes in different grinds from fine to coarse flakes. In general cooking, I use the fine grind, but for some types of breads and pizza, I like a coarse grind. As with using salt in general, this is a matter of personal preference. My rule is "Less is more", so if you have a heavy hand with the salt shaker, you may want to add more salt than is called for in the recipes.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA - BRINGING ITALY HOME by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2001.

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