Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s NPR podcast “The Splendid Table” is by far one of my favorite guilty pleasures. The amount of knowledge that woman has about food never ceases to amaze me and I always learn something from every podcast. A few episodes ago, a caller asked Lynne what she could do with her overgrown sage plant. Lynne, as always, spouted out tons of mouth watering recipes that had me running home to try. One tip in particular that caught my ear was frying the dried sage leaves in olive oil and mixing them with blanched green beans with balsamic vinaigrette. I made this recipe for a few of my guests at my last pot luck and was complimented on my use of the intoxicating plant.
Having found a new passion for fried sage leaves, I was naturally excited to have stumbled upon a winter squash soup recipe that featured them. This recipe is painfully simple and extremely delicious. I altered the recipe a bit by adding pancetta to the hot oil after I took the sage leaves out then starting the stock from that same oil. I also find that blending thick soups like this makes for a smooth consistency and allows for the flavors to blend just a little more. This recipe is perfect for those bitter fall nights when you need something extra to warm those chilly bones.
Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds winter squash
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for the squash
- 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- Chopped leaves from 4 thyme sprigs or ¼ teaspoon tried
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- Freshly milled pepper
- 2 quarts water or stock (I only used 3 cups instead of 4)
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, stuff the cavities with the garlic, and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the 1/4 cup oil until nearly smoking, then drop in the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper towel and transfer the oil to a wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the squash flesh into the pot along with any juices that have accumulated in the pan. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add more water to thin it out. Taste for salt.
Depending on the type of squash you've used, the soup will be smooth or rough. Puree or pass it through a food mill if you want a more refined soup. Ladle it into bowls and garnish each bowl with the fried sage leaves, add pepper, and serve.
You can find this recipe at Epicurious.com