Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pasta with Peas and Fresh Sage

So today I visited another of our local farmers' markets and found a nice little bunch of organic sage (amongst other things). I had just tasted a nice little cube of sage cheddar from one of the local cheesemakers so I was inspired to take the pretty little bunch home. My own sage plant is starting to look good after a long period of playing dead. It has a single stem of tiny purple flowers, which according to Jerry Traunfeld in The Herbal Kitchen, are "sweet-tasting" and can be sprinkled "on salads, vegetables, and pasta dishes".

Sage is a strongly flavored herb, with a camphory medicinal quality and is best used with restraint (it keeps bagged in the fridge for 2 weeks and frozen for 2 months). A member of the mint family, the fresh leaves are much milder than the dried version. Its leaves are an attractive grayish green and it looks like this:

It was used medicinally for just about every ill before it made its way into the kitchen. It is known to aid digestion and may even improve your memory!

Sage mixes well with other strong herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano and is commonly used in stuffing. It pairs well with cheese (strong and mild), white beans, butter, potatoes, onions, garlic, and butternut squash. Per Traunfeld, sage is best cooked in fat at an early stage, for example, when cooking onions and/or garlic in butter/oil at the beginning of a dish. He advises this because heat mellows out sage's medicinal flavor. If you'd like to read more about sage, check out this wonderful article Culinary Uses of Sage by Master Gardener Madeline Wajda.

For today's dish, I chose a recipe from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors : Pasta with Peas, Fresh Sage and Breadcrumbs. Per Madison, the minty undertones of sage make it a natural partner to peas. I followed the recipe, but thought the end result was a little bland. I added 1 tbsp creme fraiche and topped the pasta with salty feta and this improved it 100%. The sage flavoring was delicious, not at all medicinal tasting. It was delicious and hubby and I had seconds. My five year old ate a whole bowl!

8 oz pasta
4 tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 lb peas, shelled
zest of one large lemon
1 tbsp creme fraiche
1 slice bread, crumbled
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
salt & pepper
1/3 cup feta, crumbled

Cook pasta per directions. Melt 3 tbsp butter in a skillet and cook shallot until soft. Add the sage and cook 2 minutes. Add the peas and 1/2 cup of pasta water (recipe says a cup - this was really more than was needed) and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the lemon zest. Add the creme fraiche and the drained pasta. In a separate skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter and toast the breadcrumbs. Stir breadcrumbs into the pasta, along with the chopped parsley. Taste and season. Serve topped with feta.

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Blogger Erin Eats said...

It looks wonderful - I love peas in my pasta.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Ivonne said...

Beautiful, Catherine!

Like you I have a sage bush in the garden that is just beginning to come to life.

I'll have to put this pasta dish on my list, especially once fresh Ontario peas are available!

6:47 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I love fresh peas and shucking them is very relaxing!

8:44 PM  

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