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  HERB IDENTIFICATION
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Key ingredient

Sage beyond stuffing

(CNN) -- Sage has secured it's place on the holiday menu. There's nary a stuffing recipe in sight that doesn't call for a spoonful of the dried herb. Of course, outside of the turkey dinners, there are few recipes at all that request a clump of the gray-green stuff from a jar.

The musty-smell of dried sage and it's less than appetizing swampy hue may have convinced cooks that it's proper place is stuffed far into the innards of plump poultry.

But sage, in its light green, lush and undried state, should be given a fresh start.

The gently rounded leaves covered in soft fuzz are found year-round in supermarkets and are easily grown in a garden or patio pot.

Jerry Traunfeld, executive chef of The Herbfarm restaurant near Seattle, Washington, says there is no doubt that fresh sage is better.

Despite its fuzzy-wuzzy appearance, sage is no delicate herb. It's a robust and earthy plant that can weather most cooking methods. It pairs well with fish, poultry and many vegetables, especially those that thrive in winter.

Leaves are sturdy, but also chewy and a little stringy. Traunfeld recommends chopping leaves and cooking in butter or oil before adding to dishes to soften them up.

To substitute fresh sage for dried in holiday stuffing, chop leaves and saute in butter before adding the usual onions or celery in a skillet.

Sage has a bold flavor, so take is easy. Traunfeld recommends 2 teaspoons chopped sage for every 6 servings.

For a fancy take, fry leaves 10 to 15 seconds in hot oil for a crunchy little garnish.

"They get crisp and light and wonderfully nutty," Traunfeld says. Use fried leaves as a garnish for pasta, salads or appetizers.



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RELATED SITES:
Scribner: The Herbfarm Cookbook
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