How frustrating! I’ve been sitting here looking at a jar of saffron – and I have no kitchen! I won’t for a while. It’s being re-done and, according to the contractor, the work won’t be completed for another few weeks.
Making matters worse, this is not just any jar of saffron; it’s filled with some of the deepest-red, most-aromatic strands of this exotic spice I’ve ever encountered. I can’t wait to put it to use in a paella. Or pasta.
Whatever the dish, I know it will sing. Because this is special stuff!
Purchased at the legendary Spice Market in Istanbul by a friend who brought it back as a gift — the seductive, red stigmas of the crocus that make up this highly-prized spice have entranced since antiquity.
Maybe you’ve seen the colorful Minoan wall-painting, called the “Saffron Gatherer” at the Palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete. Beautiful and captivating, it’s from the Middle Minoan period, 1600 BC.
Today, the primary countries producing saffron are Greece, India, Iran, Italy and Spain. And the cool little jar sitting on my desk just waiting for its moment in my new kitchen is from, of all places, Iran.
What’s the first thing I’ll make with my Iranian stash? Paella would be a good. Or risotto. Maybe orzo. My wife would like bouillabaisse. But I’m thinking about another dish. One that’s a bit off the beaten path.
Have you ever had fideos? That thin Spanish pasta, (sort of like angel hair) cooked by slowly adding stock (sort of like you’d make risotto) so that the pasta gives up its starch to form a flavorful sauce in the pan.
Well, actually you brown the pasta first in a few tablespoons of olive oil before adding the stock. And before that you soak 1/4 teaspoon of saffron in 1/2 cup of good white wine, maybe an albariño, for about thirty minutes. An hour is better. That then goes into the stock.
Here’s my idea: some chewy Italian pasta called Caserecce, a handful for each person, cooked slowly, fideos-like, in saffron-chicken stock, topped with pan-seared swordfish and oven-roasted roma tomatoes. A dusting of smoked paprika and a handful of Italian parsley will finish the dish. If you’re wondering, I’ll need four cups of stock for the pasta.
How does that sound? I can’t wait until the kitchen is finished!
Here’s a final note to think about: Saffron is the most expensive spice on earth. Yes, it really is. How expensive? $2,000 to $10,000 a pound!
Good thing a little goes a long way.