Fried Sage Leaves with Balsamic Drizzle
Although you might think of fried sage leaves as a garnish, in Italy these two-bite morsels are a popular appetizer. Enjoy them plain, or drizzle with the sweet-tart balsamic syrup. A glass of Prosecco makes the ideal accompaniment.
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbs. honey or sugar
- 1 cup (5 oz./155 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- Fine sea salt
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) sparkling water
- 1 egg
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 24 large, unblemished sage leaves, with a bit of stem still attached
In a small saucepan, whisk together the vinegar and honey and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml), about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. Slowly pour in the water, whisking to prevent lumps. Add the egg and whisk until combined.
Pour oil into a fry pan to a depth of 1/2 inch (12 mm) and warm over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F (190°C) on a deep-frying thermometer, or until a small amount of batter sizzles and floats to the surface when dropped into the oil.
Holding a sage leaf by the stem, dip it into the batter and let any excess batter drip back into the bowl. Lower into the hot oil. Dip a few more leaves and add them to the pan, taking care not to overcrowd it. Fry the sage leaves until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Using tongs or a fork, turn them and fry until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry the remaining sage leaves.
Arrange the sage leaves on a platter and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle the balsamic syrup over the leaves (you may not need all of it) and serve. Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Rustic Italian, by Domenica Marchetti (Weldon Owen, 2011)