Savor the Flavors of Fall: Crispy Sage Leaves with Aioli

Makes 6 to 8 servings

This delightfully light appetizer is surprisingly easy to make. The subtle flavor and crispy texture of the cooked sage are perfectly complemented by the aioli. You can make the sage leaves several hours before serving, but not the day before–the leaves could lose their crispness if held overnight.

• 40 large, whole sage leaves
• 1½ cups dry white wine
• 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
• ¼ cup cornstarch
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
• ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
• Vegetable oil for frying

Place sage leaves in a mixing bowl, then add wine and vinegar. Soak sage for 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, mix together cornstarch, flour, salt, pepper and cumin. After sage has soaked, dredge wet leaves individually in cornstarch-flour mix. Gently shake off excess coating, then place leaves flat on a plate as you finish coating the remaining leaves.

Add vegetable oil to a heavy saucepan to a depth of 1 inch; heat over medium-high until oil reaches 325 to 340 degrees on a deep-fat or candy thermometer. (If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a bit of water onto the oil; if oil spatters, it is hot enough.) Carefully add small batches of five to six sage leaves to hot oil. Cook leaves very briefly, no more than 5 to 10 seconds, or until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove leaves and drain on paper towels. Leaves will become crisper as they dry. Serve with Aioli.

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