Sage advice on a trio of Thanksgiving side dishes

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Sage is one of those herbs chefs love to love. With its earthy, peppery perfume and textured leaves that fry crisp like chips or sauté soft like blankets, it offers a range of savory sensations that can help pull together an elegant Thanksgiving menu.

Sage is beloved around the world for its heady aroma and its ability to coax depth from nearly any ingredient. Primarily known for the way it enhances meats, it also stars in vegetable dishes such as minestrone soup. Marinades are made from it, cheeses are studded with it, teas in China are brewed from it.

“It’s almost effervescent. It has a great pronounced flavor,” said Scott Drewno, executive chef of The Source in Washington, D.C. And its ability to complement the other flavors of the season make it a perfect choice for Thanksgiving.

“It’s an herb that’s warming, like cinnamon, star anise,” he said. “Those are spices and herbs that are warming. They’re ideal for the fall and the winter.”

A friend to many ingredients, but a slave to none, sage is instantly recognizable taste can put a distinctive stamp on your holiday meal.

Sage Vinaigrette

Yield: Serves 12.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup orange juice

6 fresh sage leaves, chopped

1 teaspooon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender, combine oil, vinegar, juice, sage leaves, thyme, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. Serve with your favorite greens.

Peppered Sage Cornbread

Yield: Serves 12.

1 box cornbread mix

2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions. Add sage and black pepper. Bake as directed.

Cranberry Sage Stuffing

Yield: Serves 8

Splash of oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup orange juice

12-ounce bag stuffing mix

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat oil. Sauté onion, carrot, celery and sage. Add cranberries and juice. Simmer until the juice is mostly evaporated. Stir into stuffing mix, then prepare according to package directions.