While attending an olive oil workshop last week, we were inspired by some of the other participants' tales of beloved olive oil-infused meals. One woman's description of Italian fried sage leaves intrigued us so much that we couldn't wait to return home and try making them for ourselves.
We aren't sure that our version of fried sage leaves is exactly like those served in Italy, but we are well-pleased with how they turned out – a satisfying balance of savory and piquant. Coated in a tempura-like batter, fried in olive oil, and sprinkled with lemon and salt, the sage leaves are pleasantly fragrant and not overpowering. We enjoyed them as a snack (this might become our new popcorn!) and would consider serving them as an easy hors d'oeuvre or garnish on a salad, pasta, or potato dish.
This recipe makes quite a bit of batter, possibly more than you'll use for 10 or so sage leaves per person. If you have leftover batter, you can cover and keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days and use it to make other vegetable tempura.
A note on olive oil: for frying, we recommend using pure olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil may be used, but it is more expensive and has a lower smoke point.
• For further details, see Smoke Point of Olive Oil from The Olive Oil Source
Large fresh sage leaves (about 10 per person)
1 cup ice water
1 cup all-purpose flour
Fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt
Remove sage leaves from stems and wash and pat dry.
Sift flour into a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat egg and mix in water. Gradually stir egg mixture into flour. The consistency should be lumpy. Chill batter in refrigerator until ready to use.
Heat about 1 inch of oil in a deep pan.
Dip sage leaves into the batter. The leaves should be lightly coated; shake or squeeze off any excess batter.
Fry until golden, remove from oil, and drain on a towel. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of lemon juice and salt.
(Image: Gregory Han)