I, like so many of you, have a lovely little jar of Saffron in my pantry. Every time I open the cabinet, it looks at me and says, “Do yo know that I am one of the most expensive spices in the world?” Do you know that I am a sex organ of a crocus flower? Do you know that people in Spain, Greece, Iran etc. painstakingly hand pick each of my strands from these flowers? If you know this, Claudia, then why the Heck are you leaving me in this dark little cabinet with the likes of onion powder to die a slow and painful death?
The answer, my little plant organ, is that I assumed, like so many before me, that one only uses Saffron when making Paella or some rice dish thereof.
Wrong again. Just the other day, I decided to take Saffron for a spin on my Quinoa. If you have had Quinoa, you know that it really doesn’t bring much to the flavor party. Enter Saffron.
The possibilities are truly endless for this sexy little stigma and the key is knowing how to wrangle it so you get major saffroniness out of just a few strands. Many of us throw the strands directly into the dish or burn the saffron in an attempt to toast it. Saffron strands are like dried tea leaves, all they need is a little hot liquid and some time to release their magic.
HOW TO USE:
First take a few pinches of saffron with half a pinch of coarse salt and using the back of a spoon on a cutting board, press down on salt to grind the saffron threads to release the “essence” and shorten steeping time. Next, put Saffron in a small pot with about 1/2 a cup of water bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to steep for a minimum of 15 minutes. (the authorities on Saffron suggest 40 minutes and I am sure they are right, but who has 40 minutes?) Store the lovely orange liquid in a jar in the fridge.
When ready to use, take a teaspoon of the liquid at a time and add it to your food depending on how much Saffroniness you would like to achieve.
SAFFRON QUINOA SALAD
1 cup of Quinoa
2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons liquid Saffron
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup cucumber
1/4 cup red onion
1/4 roasted red peppers
(or a combo of most things you might have laying around)
Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper
Cook Quinoa according to the directions on the box with the liquids. Allow to cool and mix in chopped veggies, olive oil, salt and pepper. Enjoy. A little chopped up Spanish Chorizo might be nice too!
BLISTERED SAFFRON POTATOES
1 or more large waxy potatoes, skin on, cut into less than 1/4 ” slices
1 T or more Saffron liquid
Something green to garnish like chopped parsley or chives
Heat oven to 400 degrees F
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking oil of your choice
Lay the taters down in one even layer
Spoon, using a teaspoon, a little of the saffron liquid on each potatoe so it forms a yellow sheen/shallow pool on the surface..
Place in oven close to the top rack, bake for 10 minutes, take a peep. I don’t flip the taters. I don’t mind that they are blistered on one side only and I also don’t mind that they are yellow on one side only. You can play with doing both sides. The key is to blister, not burn the potatoes and cook them all the way through. 15-20 minutes should be enough time.
Serve 3-4 slices per person. One large potato yields 10+ slices. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and green garnish. Drizzle with olive oil if you so desire.
SPEEDY SAFFRON ALIOLI (Aioli)
Mix together 4 T Mayonnaise, 1 finely minced Garlic clove and 1 teaspoon Saffron liquid (or more to deepen flavor). Serve with fries, grilled shrimp, on a burger or anywhere you would like.
FACTS AND TIPS:
Saffron is not expensive, yet is the most expensive spice in the world. It takes 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron making it the most expensive spice in the world, but Saffron doesn’t weigh very much and you don’t need a lot to cook with, which explains why most jars of Saffron are small. Trader Joe’s sells it for somewhere around $6 for a .035 oz (1 gram) jar. The quality of Saffron will vary. I would suggest getting an entry level brand and working up to more expensive brands as you get more comfortable.
SOUP – An easy way to spruce up some ordinary chicken soup is to steep a pinch of saffron in a little bit of the liquid and tada! Saffron chicken soup.
PASTA – Add a few teaspoons of Saffron liquid to freshly cooked pasta, toss with some olive oil and salt and serve with Gambas al Ajillo (spicy Spanish shrimp).