The familiar downy leaves and distinctive sharp-clean scent of sage (like a cedar swamp on a frosty winter’s day or a pair of old leather gloves) are loved by gardeners and cooks alike. But we are wise to remember that the suggestions of wisdom and old age implied in the beloved herb’s name are not merely coincidental.
Known as the immortality herb to the ancient Greeks and revered by Egyptians and Romans alike, sage has long been associated with longevity. As the old English proverb goes, “Why should a man die whilst sage grows in his garden?” Partly, these beliefs stem from sage’s strong essential oils and their ability to protect against microbes, which were drawn upon in olden times to help with anything from a touch of cold to consumption or even the plague (the botanical name Salvia comes from the Latin Salvare, meaning to save or to cure – a homage to the herb’s wide ranging usefulness in curing disease).
But to save is only half the story when it comes to sage; sage is also an elixir and a giver of life, a property that is both undervalued and underestimated in our modern world. In the Middle Ages it was used as a rejuvenating tonic for the elderly and the convalescent, helping to strengthen the mind and the memory, lift the spirits, enliven the senses, and invigorate the body.
All of these properties, contained within those dry and cool tasting leaves, are things I like to contemplate while I’m preparing the stuffing recipe I’m sharing with you today. For what better way to show my thankfulness for all the wise and wonderful people in my life, than to slip a bit of sage into theirs?
Sage and Cornbread Stuffing Recipe
A delicious vegetarian stuffing that can easily stand alone as a main dish at the table. Bake it in a pan as suggested, or use it as a stuffing for squash. This can also easily be gluten-free by using a gluten-free cornbread recipe – there are lots of good ones on the web, though I usually just sub in a gluten-free baking mix for the flour in your standard cornbread recipe with good results.
- 1 day-old recipe cornbread, cubed (a 9X9 pan worth)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee or olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Brussels sprouts, quartered
- 1 small sized winter squash (such as acorn, buttercup or butternut), cubed
- 1 ½ cups cooked wild rice
- 1 handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9X13 casserole dish.
Toss the cubed cornbread with 1 tablespoon of the butter (melted) or oil in a large bowl and then spread the cubes out over a large baking sheet. Place the tray on the upper-most rack of the oven and toast until browned around the edges – about twenty minutes. Check them about halfway through and give the pan a good toss to make sure everything is evenly toasted.
While the cornbread is toasting, heat the remaining butter or oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions and stir occasionally until they turn translucent – about 10 minutes. At this point, add the celery, garlic, Brussels sprouts, and squash. Let everything brown in the pan for about five minutes or so, and then add 1 cup of the stock. Put a lid over the pan and let the mixture bubble away for about ten minutes, until the squash is just fork tender.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetable mixture, toasted cornbread, cooked wild rice, herbs, cranberries, pecans, and beaten eggs and mix well. If the mixture looks dry, add stock in ¼ cup increments until you have a nice gooey mixture. Check for salt and pepper and then spoon the entire mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until nicely browned on the top and heated through.
Danielle Charles Davies has a BSc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and in addition completed two years of clinical training at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism. She has written for the the American Herbalists Guild and has also served as a food columnist. Her musings, and recipes, can be found at her blog, Teacup Chronicles.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.