Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.
Saffron Takes Rice from Plain to Exquisite
by Sandra Bowens
A recent survey of this website's readers revealed that nearly half of the 67 respondents occasionally splurged on a bit of saffron while 23 others had never even seen this glorious spice.
The beautiful deep orange "threads" are the handpicked stamens of saffron crocus flowers. Saffron is the most expensive spice but you need not use more than a pinch to add flavor and color to your cooking.
The flavor is subtle, somewhat floral and earthy. Use it to enhance fish, rice or tomato dishes. The gem-quality color makes an attractive broth or festive grains.
The following recipe for rice pilaf is a stunning addition to the dinner table thanks to the yellow rice dotted with bits of carrot orange and pea green. It is a terrific accompaniment to just about any grilled meat or fish.
Saffron Rice Pilaf
1 teaspoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups hot chicken stock
1 good pinch saffron threads
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup petite peas, thawed if frozen
Chopped parsley, for garnish, if desired
In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Stir in the rice; cook and stir for another five minutes. Now pour in the hot chicken stock and add the saffron. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat enough to maintain a bare simmer. Drop in the bay leaf and add the peas. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 20 minutes without lifting the lid.
After 20 minutes check to make sure all the liquid has been absorbed. If it has not, continue cooking for about 5 more minutes. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove from heat and allow to sit, with the lid still on, for another 5 minutes. Fluff rice pilaf with a fork and transfer to a warmed serving dish. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if using, and serve right away.
Yield: 6 servings
Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.