Herbs on everything

Add a dash or a pinch to bring out the best in any meal.

Herbs are the perpetual understudies of any dish — often tossed in as an afterthought. Try giving them a starring role, however, and your meal pops with flavor. Plus, you’ll get an antioxidant jolt since these sticky florae pack a highly concentrated amount of phyto-nutrients that may help protect against heart disease and cancer. While gardens and farmer’s markets are in full fall bloom, we’ve tapped Top Chef Master Clark Frasier, co-owner and co-chef of the beloved Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine, for his herb secrets. Frasier's dining room is known for serving up vegetables and greenery produced just steps away on an acre of surrounding land. "There is no better, quicker way to bring bright, healthy flavor to a dish,” he says. “Fall is bursting with herbs like sage and thyme. If there is one secret weapon I use to make a meal sing, it's slipping in a small handful of fresh, chopped herbs." Here are 16 ways to use up your stash.

tarragon: delicate with a hint of anise

At breakfast: Top on a fruit salad that includes oranges.

At lunch: Swap out the lettuce for tarragon leaves on a turkey sandwich.

At dinner: Mix with a jar of tomato sauce for that “homemade” taste.

For a snack: Toast almonds and walnuts with salt and chopped tarragon.

mint: a refreshing way to add zip

At breakfast: Mix into oatmeal for an eye-opening day.

At lunch: Toss into a marmalade and coat on shrimp or chicken before cooking.

At dinner: Ordering take-out? Fold leaves into any noodle or rice dish.

For a drink: Add to a melon smoothie.

sage: earthy, think green olives with pine

At breakfast: Dice up the leaves and blend in low fat cream cheese. Spread on a bagel and top with smoked fish.

At lunch: Toss sea salt on the leaves and bake until crisp. Crumble the leaves on pasta or a baked sweet potato instead of a heavy sauce or butter.

At dinner: For Sicilian taste, add whole leaves to a fish kabob with tomato cubes and garlic.

For a snack: Slice finely and add to bruschetta.

thyme: frasier’s favorite for its fullness and versatility

At breakfast: Roast tomatoes with kosher salt and a sprinkling of thyme. Serve with scrambled eggs.

At lunch: Mix the pink blossoms for an anything-but-ordinary salad with unusual color.

At dinner: Mix the entire stalk (stem, leaves, blossoms) with white beans and garlic, then heat. “These are made for each other,” Frasier says.

For a snack: In a food processor, combine leaves with sugar. Use as an ice cream topping.