Sage vs. SAGE: You be the judge

Nothing the world likes better than a good fight.

I’m sure we’d all like to say that fighting doesn’t solve anything, but it sure seems to be damn entertaining. Otherwise we wouldn’t be watching reality TV, there would be no market for televised MMA fighting and the debates wouldn’t get such high ratings. Competition, tension, and –maybe a little blood—is exciting. If it bleeds, it leads…right?

As the middle child and only girl, I was bred to be competitive and to be fueled by the fire of a fight. So waging a war between my ingredients makes cooking a little more interesting.

In the right corner: fresh sage. Officially salvia officinalis, sage is a perennial, evergreen ground hugging shrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region. Flavor-wise, it’s the aftertaste of gravy at Thanksgiving—earthy, woody and slightly bitter.

In the left corner: SAGE, another fantastic herbal libation from Art in the Age. It has the perfumey, piney, minty notes that remind me of gin but lack the throat-closing elements that keep us apart (juniper berries and me–we don’t get along).

I decided on a simple soup where the dueling dragons could really stand out—as one of only 6 things, they didn’t have a choice. Pumpkin, apples, chicken stock, some salt and pepper rounded out the posse in the fight. The battle would determine which was best: fresh, authentic flavor or the doctored, essence.

The chopped sage gave the apple, pumpkin mixture a tastier look while roasting and when they met the blender, produced a richer, darker broth that fit the toasty flavor of the soup. SAGE caramelized on the fruits as they browned under high heat and allowed the vibrant orange of the Cinderella pumpkin to sing. The sweetness of the liquor, pumpkin and apples had to be quelled (for me anyway) with a little extra pepper to become ass kicking…but once it was there, this stuff was incredible.

In the end, if there could be only one, my vote went to the booze (surprised?) since I didn’t have to dig that out from under leaves in my mom’s garden. It was a good, clean fight though and I’ll happily to pit them against each other again soon…just for fun.

Pumpkin Apple Sage and SAGE Soup (as adapted from EatingWell.com)

  • 4 lbs. pie pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 lbs. sweet-tart apples, such as Empire, Cameo or Braeburn, unpeeled,      cored and cut into eighths
  • 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground tri-colored pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 C Art in the Age SAGE
  • 6 C chicken broth
  • 1/3 C chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Seed, peel and cut pumpkin into 2” chunks. Be sure to buy a pumpkin that weighs in at 5-6 lbs to yield 4lbs of pumpkin (the junk has weight too!). Core and cut unpeeled apples into eights. Separate pumpkin and apple evenly into two roasting pans. Toss each with 2 tablespoons of olive oil (2 T = 1/8 C, 4 T = ¼ C) and pinch of salt. Roast, uncovered, stirring once, for 30 mins.

Pull one pan from the oven and cover—setting aside so the competitors don’t mingle. In the second pan, toss in fresh sage. Roast 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer one-half of the pumpkin and apples to a blender along with 1 ½ cups broth. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a stock pot on low and repeat for second batch. Season with salt, pepper and heat through over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent splattering.

With first batch of resting pumpkin and apples, add 1/4 C of SAGE and roast in oven, uncovered for 15 minutes. Blend with chicken broth and heat in second stock pot.

Chop hazelnuts and place small dry skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Top competitors with chopped nuts and you be the judge.

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