Saturday, October 29, 2011

VeganMoFo 29: My Glorious Friend Saffron

Today's Spice is: Saffron!

Oh friends, I love saffron so much. I know, I know, it is pricey. But if you've never used saffron, let me encourage you to give it a go. And not the crappy powdered kind, please. The only reason it's so expensive is that each beautiful little red strand of saffron is a tiny piece of a crocus flower,* and they have to be carefully and delicately harvested by hand.

They are a glorious red color on their own, but when soaked in water they dye everything a deep golden yellow that is really beautiful. I mostly use saffron when I am cooking Persian food... where it is used in desserts, on rice, and generally all the time. Saffron has a subtle but distinct flavor - a little bitter, but also alluring. If you are interested, the wikipedia page on saffron is totally thorough.

*this also falls into the "who thinks of these things in the first place?" category!

To celebrate my love of saffron, I made dinner and dessert featuring this yellow beauty. For dinner I made the Saffron & Butternut Squash Risotto from the Millennium Cookbook. I even got to use a butternut squash from our own garden! The risotto also has fresh tomatoes and pureed corn in it - which made it super creamy. Just look at that gorgeous yellow color! The saffron is mostly here for color, though I'm sure its flavor is there in the overall experience. Pretty much saffron is always used in very small amounts, because a little bit goes a long way, and too much just becomes bitter & overpowering.

I liked this risotto, but I felt like it needed a bit more zing somehow... I wanted one flavor to come shining through a bit more clearly. It's generally tasty though, so I might tweak it around next time. My general rule of thumb with recipes is "follow the directions exactly the first time, then, do whatever you want the next time."

For dinner I tried the Saffron Rice Pudding from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. It was an easy recipe with rice, sugar, saffron, and rosewater... topped with toasted almonds, pistachios, and raisins. I loved the yellow color, and the mix-in toppings really sealed the deal. Plus, rosewater+saffron is pretty much a match made in heaven as far as I'm concerned. My favorite Persian New Year candies have that same combo. I think next time I make this I'll cut back the sugar a little bit... and I'll stay nearby the pot too, so that I don't burn the rice on the bottom. But it was an easy and delicious little dessert, and a great way to feature the golden glory of saffron one more time!

What are your favorite saffron recipes?


  1. I love saffron and your risotto looks perfect. it is kinda expensive but the tub of it usually lasts for ages.

  2. i've had saffron before, but not in a looong time and it's only been when dining out. we have a tiny bottle on our spice rack that sadly, i've been ignoring. the first go around with a recipe our rules are the same as yours - make it as is. then you know what you're working with and how to tweak it just right the next time. the butternut risotto looks good though, Amey and how totally bad ass that's a homegrown butternut of yours. the best! the rice pudding sounds delightful. the combination of rosewater + saffron does sound heavenly!

  3. Your saffron and butternut squash risotto looks delish!! I also love saffron - but have only used it in paella. Thanks for the new idea!

  4. Hip hip HOORAY! My favorite Indian dessert is rice pudding....mmmmmmmm.....oh man. Bring me some when I come up to Northern Cali, will ya???!

  5. I like saffron but don't love it. A few weeks ago I made a tagine from 'Cooking Around my French Table' by D. Greenspan and it had a ton of saffron in it (along with caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, prunes, and chickpeas). Mostly I use saffron for saffron rice, boring but tasty.

  6. I've never cooked with saffron before! I'm too cheap, probably. I have purchased the cheapo kind from the latin grocery store, but i dunno where that stuff went.


  7. So I've definitely never purchased saffron, but I've had saffron dishes at restaurants and it's crazy-good. I'm totally with Kittee, I've just been too cheap to buy it!

  8. Oh gosh, I almost NEVER cook with saffron, even though I adore it. The one thing I've used it for in the last, oh, 3 years is a raw paella dish that's going in my cookbook. When nothing's cooked, the flavor gets to stand out immensely!

  9. Anonymous12:36 PM

    You know that was the first recipe I tried from the Millennium cookbook a long time ago, and I totally agree that it was lacking in something.

    Mmmm, that pudding looks great.

    :) jen e.


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