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Apples, Autumn and Sage

Sage is one of the most favored herbs in the Italian kitchen. The Italian word for sage, salvia, comes from the Latin word salvere, meaning "to be well". In Italy salve is a more formal way of saying "hello" and can be used to wish someone good health. It is a polite form of greeting, more formal than "ciao" used to greet someone you don't know or are familiar with.

In Italy, sage is popular with grilled or roasted meats, pork or as a seasoning in sausage. It is an essential aromatic to brown butter sage gnocchi, butter squash and sage risotto and the filled pasta dish agnolotti burro e salvia. Used to flavor bean soups, top focaccia and paired with lemon makes a great marinade. Pinning a slice of prosciutto and fresh leaf of sage to the top of a piece of chicken or veal is what gives an Italian saltimbocca its "jump in the mouth" flavor and aromatizes the buttery white wine sauce. An herb of well-being, sage pairs well with another source of good nutrition, apples and also with mild cheeses as in this recipe where baked brie is the base for an appetizer with the taste and aroma of autumn.

Apple Baked Brie with Walnuts and Fried Sage

  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter

  • 1 Fuji or Honey Crisp Apple (peeled with small dice)

  • 12 Fresh Sage leaves

  • 1 tbsp Honey

  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar

  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice

  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg

  • coarsely ground sea salt

  • 1 8 oz wheel of Brie

  • 1 Sheet of Puff Pastry (thawed)

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • Egg Wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk)

  • 1/3 cup Chopped Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add in the apples, honey, brown sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix to combine the ingredients. When the juices start bubbling, decrease the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes until the apples become soft and caramelize to a deep golden brown color. Stir frequently to prevent the sugars from burning. When the apples are done, remove it from the heat and set it aside for later.

Unfold the thawed puff pastry onto plastic cutting board surface. Add the apple mixture to the center of the puff pastry holding back a few tablespoons of the apple mixture. Spread the apple mixture into a circle that's about the same size as the round of brie. Remove a thin layer from the top of the round of brie and place the brie on top of the apples. Add the reserved apple miture to the top of the brie and fold the puff pastry around the brie until the surface is completely enclosed in it making sure the pastry seams are sealed. Brush the entire surface with the egg wash. Bake the brie in the oven for about 30 minutes. The puff pastry should be golden brown.

While the brie is baking, add the chopped walnuts to a small pan. Heat over medium low heat to toast the walnuts. They will release oils and become fragrant. This should take about 3-5 minutes. When the walnuts are toasted, remove them from the heat and set them aside for later.

When the brie is done baking, remove it from the oven. Allow it to stand for about 3-5 minutes before using a spatula to lift it from the sheet tray onto a serving platter. Heat 1/8 inch oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add sage leaves and press into oil to fully coat. Fry just until leaves are crisp,10 to 20 seconds. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. plate. Season with salt.

Arrange Brie on a serving plate. Drizzle a little honey on top of the puff pastry. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top. Garnish with fried sage leaves. Serve with crackers or crostini.

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