I love all the ingredients in this simple dish: tender white beans, seared mushrooms, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, and crunchy walnuts. But let’s be honest: the real star is the fried sage.
Sage is one of the few herbs that I’ve managed to keep alive in my little garden, which means we’ve had the opportunity to get to know one another these last few months. It’s an herb that is too intense to eat raw, so you always want to cook it before eating. But it can also burn easily, so I’ve had the most luck frying it on its own and adding it at the end of the dish. The smell of fried sage wafting through your house is worth the effort alone, but the culinary opportunities are too many to count: crumble fried sage and sprinkle on a pumpkin soup, liven up a chicken and pasta dish by scattering a few leaves over the top, or pile your fried sage leaves on a cheese board with some Brie, Parmesan, and Gruyere.
The first step is to pick the leaves off the stem, rinse them, and then dry them with a paper towel. Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat, and once the oil starts to shimmer, lower heat to medium. Drop in a few sage leaves at a time: give them about 10 seconds in the oil, flip them over, 10 more seconds, and pull them out. Do not wait for them to brown — this will be too long. Place the sage on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil, and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat until you’ve used all of your leaves.
Once you’ve nailed this process, the rest of the dish comes together easily. But here are a few tips for your mushrooms, to ensure you give them a nice golden-brown sear. Mushrooms release a lot of water when cooking, and this is the enemy of searing. So to avoid the release of water, you need 1) a very hot pan, 2) lots of space between the mushrooms (I cooked these in two batches), 3) to avoid moving them around until one side is completely seared, and 4) to avoid salting until the end, because salting will draw out the moisture.
Once the mushrooms are ready, you’ll add the beans to the same pan to warm them through. Then you can plate the mushroom-bean mixture, top with cheese, walnuts, and finally, your showstopper: the sage.
White Beans and Mushrooms with Fried Sage
A hearty side dish or perfect main served over rice.
- 1 bunch of fresh sage about 20-30 leaves, rinsed and dried
- olive oil
- Sea salt
- 12 ounces cremini mushrooms cleaned and halved, quartered, or sliced thickly (depending on the size of the mushroom)
- 2 cups cooked white beans* if using canned, rinse and drain
- ⅓ cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano**
- ⅓ cup walnuts
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a small pan. When oil starts to shimmer, turn heat down to medium. Add three sage leaves, let cook for 10 seconds, turn over, and cook for another 10 seconds. Remove from pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat with remaining sage leaves, adding extra olive oil when needed.
Wipe out any burned bits of sage from pan, and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Heat to medium-high, and add half of the mushrooms, making sure they are spaced evenly. Do not move them. After a few minutes, lift one mushroom to check if it has formed a nice golden-brown sear. If so, flip mushrooms to sear the other side. Remove from pan and place in a bowl while you sear the second half of the mushrooms using the same process.
Add all of the mushrooms back in the pan. Add white beans to the pan as well. Warm over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Plate bean-and-mushroom mixture. Garnish with shaved parmesan and walnuts. Scatter sage leaves on top.
*various types of white beans you can choose from include Navy beans, Great Northern beans, Cannellini beans, and Baby Lima beans. My personal favorite: Alubia Blanca beans from Rancho Gordo. **Parmesan or Pecorino Romano will work here too. If you can, buy a wedge and shave the cheese yourself by slicing very thinly using a vegetable peeler. When cheese is pre-shaved, pre-shredded, pre-grated, etc., the manufacturers often add ingredients (such as potato starch and cellulose) to prevent the cheese from clumping. These additives will alter the taste and the way the cheese behaves in recipes. Also: cellulose is wood pulp...