My father in law brought the gold.
Also known as saffron.
A giant jar, of fragrant, Iranian saffron, which he says, is the best in the world.
As far as saffron goes, the crown contenders for the “best title” are: Iran, Kashmir India, and Spain.
Since we don’t make saffron in the ‘bu, I am not going to take sides.
I had the goods (the saffron), time to decide what to do with it, I didn’t want to make saffron rice or cream sauce, I didn’t want to be that obvious. Maybe next time, we will do saffron rice.
But I promise nothing.
Instead we made Saffron chicken, saffron potatoes, saffron Israeli couscous, saffron grape foccacia, and saffron ice cream. Our non saffron dishes were, greek salad, and green beans with roast carrots.
Saffron, turns food into gold. A beautiful golden-yellow hue, while at the same time adding the fragrant and magic flavor of saffron. To capitalize on the flavor and color, it is best to always immerse the saffron in a hot liquid for a few minutes to release the magic.
Saffron, a pinch
olive oil, a few tablespoons
butter, a few tablespoons
Place a pinch of saffron into a small skillet, cover with oil and cook for a few minutes. Try not to burn your very expensive saffron. Then stir in the butter. Let this mixture cool down. Once cool, pour the saffron infused oil over whatever you are trying to marinade, such as chicken, I love the thighs, because they are super cheap (nice) and they don’t easily over cook and become dry. White fish also works well with a saffron marinade.
Obviously, using salmon makes no sense, as the beautiful yellow color would go unnoticed……
So white fish, tofu or chicken.
Alright, so you got your saffron oil, over your protein. Now add:
lemon zest, grated
red pepper flakes, optional
Stir in the above ingredients and rub all over your saffron oil coated protein. Place in the fridge overnight.
Next day. Sear the skin side until nice and crisp in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil (never use butter on its own as it will burn, always use a butter/oil mix, or all oil). Flip and cook for a few minutes on the opposite side, then place in a 400 degree preheated until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
DO ahead: you can sear the chicken, place it in the fridge, in the morning, then right before dinner, pop it straight in the oven. If the chicken has been chilled after searing, it will take more time to cook through, about 20 minutes. This will also work for fish. Just sear the top side, chill until ready to use, then place in the oven until fish will flake.
Finish off with SQUEEZE of lemon, because…..
I especially love working with tone on tone food colors. What I loooooove about this recipe, is that coloring the Israeli couscous (which is the large grain couscous) with saffron, not only does it become fragrant and beautifully yellow, it looks exactly like corn kernels, and when mixed with the sweet corn, you can’t tell, them apart.
1 box large grain, Israeli couscous* (yeah yeah you can use regular couscous, taste just fine, but then it doesn’t look like corn….)
Pinch of saffron
chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water, per package instructions
3 ears of super fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups sugar snaps, flash blanched, sliced thin
1 glove garlic, grated
juice and zest from 1 lemon (maybe 2)
olive oil, hmmmm, 2 – 3 tablespoons
Cook the large grain couscous in chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water) and a pinch of saffron, per the package instructions. If the couscous you bought came with a seasoning packet, throw it away. There is no purpose for its existence. When finished cooking, the water should have been absorbed into the couscous. Cover with lid and allow to steam for 10 minutes.
While the couscous is steaming, cook the corn in the butter and one tablespoon of olive oil, for a few minutes, or until it is just beginning to brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the couscous to a bowl, season with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and zest. Stir in the cooked corn and the flash blanched sugar snaps, and the parsley. Taste for seasoning, add more lemon juice if needed, because there is no such a thing as too much lemon.
serve hot or room temp.
Baby potatoes (I never peel my potatoes unless they are russets. All the nutrients are in the skin)
Saffron, nice pinch
lemon juice and zest
1 clove garlic, grated
mayonnaise, 1/4 cup
salt and pepper
red bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
cubed pancetta, cooked (optional)
Additional options: chopped hard-boiled egg, green beans, peas, asparagus etc.
Boil the baby potatoes in salted water until soft when pierced. Depending on the size, the time will vary, so you are just gonna have to check ‘em every now and then. Drain and cut in half. Heat a large skillet with a small amount of olive oil and saute the baby potatoes, cut side down until just beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper and toss with saffron mayonnaise (below).
Ok, you got your saffron, what do you need to do first?
Yes, you need to apply hot liquid, to release the flavor and color. So place the saffron in a bowl, the pour over a small amount of hot water over the saffron, and let steep for a few minutes. Once cool, add lemon juice, garlic and mayonnaise. Stir until blended. You don’t want it to be too thin, so depending on how much water you dissolved the saffron in, you may need to add more mayo. Toss in the hot potatoes. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and/or lemon juice if needed. Now add whatever else you are using, pancetta, sure, red bell pepper for color, why not, parsley, something green, always nice.
Whatever you like. Serve room temp.
Alright step away from the saffron for a second and let’s make some greek salad.
You are going to need:
Tomatoes, cherry or regular
olive oil and splash of balsamic vinegar
Chop your tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, splash with olive oil and balsamic, toss in the oregano. Let marinade for 30 minutes or so.
While the tomatoes are doing their thing assemble the rest of the stuff.
cucumbers, preferably persian small, chopped
yellow bell pepper (cause the tomatoes are red, and the cucumbers are green, unless the tomatoes are green zebras and the, oh never mind, just keep it colorful)
parsley, lots, chopped
juice and zest from one lemon
I like everything chopped in equal size bits, but you chop ‘em the way you like ‘em. It doesn’t really matter.
Toss it all in a big bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over some more oil, splash in the lemon, now toss in your tomatoes that are pre marinated, and your ready to serve.
Greek Salad, although best eaten when assembled, it can, (f you must, and have leftovers) I am not saying I recommend it, I am just saying it as a possibility, be eaten the next day.
honey or agave
salt and pepper
green beans, thin
garlic, 1 clove sliced thin
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, juice from one lemon plus zest
garnish: herbs, sunflower seeds, or pepitas
Pre heat the oven. We are going to work with a 50/50 split of carrots vs green beans. Doesn’t really matter how much you are making. Drizzle your carrots with some olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. They should be on a sheet pan, which you will now place in the preheated 400 degree oven. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until nice and lighly browned and just soft. Drizzle with some honey or agave, and a squeeze of lemon.
Boil or steam your very thin and gorgeously fresh green beans for about 2 minutes, or until just done. Leave them crispy. They should be good enough to eat raw, so they really just need a quick cook. Drain, either plunge in ice water or just rinse in cool water. Place in a bowl. In a small skillet, cook the very thinly sliced garlic clove and cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Pour the garlic and the oil over the green beans. Season with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic. Toss in the cooked carrots, garnish with some herbs and or sunflower seeds or pepitas.
My all time favorite holiday, is the Swedish Santa Lucia celebration. If you are not familiar with the holiday, please refer to your copy of “The Swedish Table”. I was first thinking we would make Santa Lucia buns (for recipe please again refer to your copy of the Swedish table) which is this wonderfully fragrant Saffron bun with raisins. Seriously yummy and takes me right down memory lane, but then last-minute I decided, I wasn’t sure if the ‘bu mom’s would share my appreciation for this Swedish country delight. I was still obsessing about the saffron, raisin bread, when I overheard someone at the farmers market say they were making grape foccacia.
At which point I thought. Yeah. Saffron, grape foccacia. Only bad news was I had spent the week procrastinating, and thinking about Swedish Santa Lucia bread, that I didn’t have a chance to make a sample before class……
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup very warm water
2/3 cup olive oil + additional oil
1 3/4 cup water
pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups flour
2 cups grapes, blue preferably
1/2 cup walnuts, pine nuts, or pecans (optional)
First, per my very excellent demonstration, you should always do the following when working with yeast.
1. Put one tablespoon sugar in a metal bowl.
2 Pour 1/4 cup very hot water straight from the tap (not from a tea kettle because then it will be too hot) over the sugar,
3) Immediately pour the yeast over the hot water.
Wait. Wait for it.
It shall “proof”, as in get all bubbly.
If it does not proof, your water was either too hot or too cold, so toss it all out, and start again.
Now dissolve your saffron in the remaining water, which should also be hot, so that the flavor and color of the saffron is maximized. If you are not using saffron, this remaining water can be room temp. Once the water cools, combine it with the salt and the oil and then pour the “wet” ingredients into the proofed yeast mix.
Now with an electric mixer using the dough hook, mix in the flour, nice and slow, 1/4 cup at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed. Keep adding flour until it is slightly tacky but can be handled. Maybe you will need 4 cups. Maybe 5. Toss in the grapes, and mix a few more seconds. Then empty out the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead for a few minutes, adding more flour if necessary. Pour some oil into a large bowl, and turn the dough in the oil so it is oiled on all sides.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and keep in a warm place, for 2 hr or until the dough is doubled in size.
Place the dough onto a greased sheet pan (or use silpat liner). Stretch it out to reach the corners. It should cover a full size sheet pan pretty exactly. Toss some nuts (if using) on the top. Brush with olive oil. Maybe sprinkle with some sugar. Maybe not.
Let rise another 30 minutes, then bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and baked through.
Alright, don’t feel like saffron or grapes in your foccacia?
Fine, omit both. You can sprinkle with parmesan, garlic, rosemary instead. Or onions and kalamata. Or Cherry tomatoes and thyme.
Whole wheat flour works fine too.
1 can of coconut milk
nice pinch of saffron
same amount of whole milk yogurt (yeah yeah, you could use non fat, but non fat yogurt is awful) – use the empty coconut milk can for measurement
same amount of sugar
juice from one lemon
First dissolve the saffron into the coconut milk, and heat for a few minutes, until the coconut milk has turned a lovely yellow. Let cool. Stir in yogurt, sugar and lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. Add more lemon if needed.
Pour into ice cream maker and churn per manufacturer instructions. Saffron ice cream is super delicious but sweet so I prefer it with a dollop of mascarpone cream (recipe below).
1/2 cup cream
pinch of sugar
1/2 cup of mascarpone, creme fraiche or sour cream
Beat the cream with the sugar, in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then add the mascarpone (creme fraich or sour cream) and beat until just combined. Serve with the saffron ice cream.