Crisp, delicious fried sage leaves are the kind of smart touch chefs love to use to dress up winter dishes. Why let them claim all the kitchen wisdom, though? It's almost shamefully easy to fry the leaves: it just takes 15 seconds in a tiny bit of hot oil ― and sage is sturdy, so no worries about it crumbling. You can use the common variety, which darkens to a deep gray-green, or search out variegated sage for a more dramatic look.
A few fried leaves are wonderful floated on a savory squash soup, garnishing an hors d'oeuvres tray, or planted on a comforting bowl of polenta with parmesan cheese; for extra impact, fry up a big batch and arrange the sage around a lavish Christmas pork roast.