1. The Simplest Way is the Best
Lidia Bastianich shares a simple recipe for Saffron Infused Olive Oil tossed with pasta in Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. The saffron threads are toasted, ground into a powder, and stirred into the olive oil. This is a great way to appreciate the flavor of saffron on its own. Risotto Milanese is another classic way to enjoy the flavor of saffron. According to Elizabeth David’s book, Italian Food, the original Risotto Milanese is made by flavoring chicken broth with saffron and using this base to cook the arborio (risotto rice). At the end of cooking, butter and Parmesan are stirred in. Simple but oh so delicious.
2. Saffron & Vegetables
In A Platter of Figs, David Tanis writes, “It’s amazing how a little saffron and garlic can transform ordinary carrots into something sublime.” He suggests sautéing carrot coins with butter , chopped garlic, and crumbled saffron then adding a bit of water as well as lemon zest and simmering the carrots until tender. Experiment using saffron with summer squash and zucchini.
3. Saffron with Seafood
Bouillabaisse is a famous Provencal seafood stew flavored with saffron. Pat Willard wrote a book called Secrets of Saffron, and she tells a story of a man who seduced her with a dish she calls Michael’s Seafood Cure. The recipe involves steeping saffron in “a good yeasty beer” while you sautée garlic, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels and/or scallops. Pour the liquid over the shellfish and simmer until all is cooked through. Serve with crusty bread and beers for drinking. If you’re cooking on the fly, mussels and saffron are always a good idea.
4. Scrambled Eggs
In Artichoke to Za’atar I learned to combine saffron threads and cream with eggs and scramble slowly in melted butter. This sounds so luxurious! In history the Phoenicians were famously addicted to saffron. Maybe make this dish to surprise your significant other and see what happens? I’m just saying…
5. Saffron Rice
Across the world there are many different versions of saffron rice. Mario Batali shares a Spanish version in Spain…A Culinary Road Trip. Spanish bomba rice is cooked in saffron infused water and vegetable stock. The rice is embellished with vegetables such as carrot, bell pepper, turnip, asparagus, mushrooms and zucchini. At the end fresh thyme and lavender provide a nicely perfumed garnish. Madhur Jaffrey, a well-known authority on Indian food, includes a recipe for Sweet Yellow Rice in her book, Indian Cooking. Basmati is sauteed in ghee (clarified butter) with cardamom pods and cinnamon. Saffron infused milk is added with water to cook the rice. Almonds, sugar, and raisins also flavor the rice which. Why not try using saffron when cooking your go to simple rice dish at home?
I’m a fan of Blue Chair Fruit because Rachel Saunders is so creative with the ingredients she puts in their jams. Her recipe for Apricot-Orange Marmalade in the Blue Chair Fruit Cookbook includes saffron for what she calls, “an unusual and complex flavored preserve.” The book also contains a recipe for Early Girl Tomato Marmalade with oranges, tomatoes, saffron and cinnamon. See, combinations you’ve never even dreamed of! It’s a big world out there, kids.
One of the quintessential saffron dishes is Spanish Paella. In Canal House Cooking Volume 1 Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton encourage us to “Cook something big and involved, something that lures you out of the ordinary, away from the domestic environment of your home kitchen…” These ladies build a fire pit and place a huge pan over cinder blocks to cook their Canal House Paella, a dish of Spanish rice, mussels, chorizo, and chicken. The fire must be tended. A crust builds on the bottom of the rice in the pan. Saffron and bell peppers and paprika are added for flavor. If you’re looking for a stove top recipe, Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Mediterranean Cooking has it.
That’s right- I said waffles. I knew I could count on Maria Speck’s Ancient Grains for Modern Meals for an interesting recipe with saffron. Only a truly inquisitive and intuitive cook would come up with the idea to heat some milk with saffron and add that to a waffle batter. She uses whole wheat flour for a crisp, chewy waffle. The orange cream garnish is made with orange zest, honey, cream, and Greek yogurt. Saffron Waffles with Orange Cream sounds amazing.
According to Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, the name tagine refers to a stew and the clay pot with a cone shaped lid in which stews are traditionally cooked over a fire. In Morocco, lamb shoulder is usually used for tagines. Also, tagines are served with bread and not couscous. The spice saffron is often used in Moroccan tagines. The book contains several recipes for tagines. The one that appeals to me right now is her Lamb Tagine with Peas, Preserved Lemon, and Olives. Tomatoes and saffron are also used to flavor the dish. I encourage you to get out there and explore tagines.
10. Baked Breads
In Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread, Richard Bertinet includes a recipe for Saffron Rolls. Saffron strands are simply infused in water that goes into the bread dough. The bread is topped with cumin seeds. Richard Bertinet suggests using the roles for crab or shrimp salad sandwiches. The book, Country Breads of the World has a recipe for Daniel’s Saffron Bread that is similar to a brioche. The saffron is infused into milk overnight. The bread dough is made with milk, white bread flour, butter, light brown sugar, and mixed dried fruit. This enriched loaf is nice with a cup of tea in the afternoon.
What’s your favorite way to cook with saffron? Let me know in the comments section. Click Here.