Pineapple sage tartare Credit: Julia Thiel

Tim Graham, chef at Travelle at the Langham Hotel, has been growing pineapple sage in his backyard all summer. He just hadn’t figured out what to do with it. “To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed with it,” he says. “It’s a strange little herb.” Then his friend Aaron McKay, executive chef at the Blackstone Hotel, challenged Graham to create a dish with pineapple sage, and it was time to decide how to use it.

“It doesn’t have that much of a taste,” Graham says. “It’s really an aroma. When you rub the leaves, it smells like pineapple. But it doesn’t have any sagelike characteristics.” The only thing he’d tried making with it before was a mojito. “I find the fragrance to be almost synthetic, like a stevia type of thing,” he says.

Still, he incorporated pineapple sage into every element of his dish, a snapper tartare with melons and tomatoes. After dicing the snapper, Graham seasoned it with salt and olive oil and combined it with red Cerignola olives and pineapple sage thinly sliced into chiffonade. The thin slicing, he said, was to expose as many open cells and release as much fragrance as possible.

He served the tartare with two salads: one of Sun Gold tomatoes macerated with salt, pepper, and pineapple sage; the other muskmelon and cantaloupe with corn (sauteed with Espelette pepper and pineapple sage) and a vinaigrette of champagne vinegar, coconut milk, cucumber skins, and pineapple sage. A single leaf of pineapple sage finished the dish.

Graham says he likes the dish: “The pineapple sage is there as a fragrance, with the melons helping lift it up. But I will probably not grow any pineapple sage next year.” He’d make the dish again—with basil instead. “But pineapple sage doesn’t hurt it.”

Who’s next:
Graham has challenged Nathan Sears of the Radler and DAS to create a dish with Chinese long beans, a type of long, thin green bean.

Pineapple sage tartare
2 pounds snapper fillet, skin off, diced small
½ tsp. sea salt
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T pineapple sage chiffonade
6 ea. pineapple sage leaves
½ cup plums, diced 
½ cup peaches, diced
(or sub cantaloupe and muskmelon for plums and peaches)
½ cup cucumber, diced
½ cup tomato, diced

Toss the diced snapper in the extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pineapple sage chiffonade.

In a separate bowl toss the plums, peaches, cucumber, and tomato with some of the olive oil and salt. Fold in the pineapple sage.

Plate the fish in a layer in the middle of the plate. Top with the fruit and tomato relish. Dress around the fish with the vinaigrette.

Just before serving, slap a pineapple sage leaf between your hands and place on top.

1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 T pineapple sage chiffonade
Salt to taste

Reduce the chicken stock by three quarters. Add the champagne vinegar, whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the salt and pineapple sage. Cool until ready for use.