Friday, May 24, 2013

Around the World in Food Month, Turkish Saffron

Turkish Saffron
     One of the items I wanted to purchase most on my vacation was spices.  I love purchase spices when I travel because so many times I can find a much better quality and a much better price than I can at home.  One of the countries we went to was Turkey, and I will be telling you more about that visit in a later post, but let me tell you I LOVED Turkey.  To me it was the highlight of my trip, there were so many incredible things to see there. Before going on vacation I had a mental list in my head of what spices I would be looking for and what prices I was going to be hoping for.  The main spice that I was hoping to find for a good deal was saffron.  I have to tell you, I adore saffron, but sadly it’s price means that I can not use it as much as I would like in my cooking.  Here in the United States we don’t use it that much, mostly because its hard to find, and once you find it the price makes it restrictive.
     I told Mr. Love From Scratch that if we found Saffron for a good price and a good quality we were stocking up!  Because saffron isn’t used as much here, a lot of people are unaware just what saffron is, so let me give you a quick lesson.

     Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is one of the most expensive spices in the world.  Actually I believe that their price per gram is more expensive than any other spice.  While is is very expensive the good news is that any recipe with saffron usually only calls for a very minute amount.  A little definitely goes a long way, so use it sparingly.
     Saffron used in food gives off a very distinct aroma and colors the food to a lovely golden-rod color.  Lots of people try to substitute other spices for saffron in their cooking and while there are several other plants that can give a yellow or orange color to the food; yet none of these has the aroma of true saffron. Once you have smelled it you can always recognize saffron. 
     Several Mediterranean dishes call for saffron, often in connection with fish and seafood. Examples include; Italian risotto alla Milanese, bouillabaisse, and of course paella Valenciana.  Paella is a personal favorite of mine, and the saffron really helps to make the dish.
     Saffron is more crucial in the cuisine of Central Asia and Northern India, where it is used for rice dishes.  Several years ago I was very sick for quite awhile and it seemed like the only thing I wanted was a saffron rice dish called biryani.  There was a really delicious Indian restaurant that was close to my home and this became a staple for me. 
     Saffron itself is actually the stigmas on the crocus plant, so they are the most plentiful spice out there.  Each crocus only has a couple of these stigmas, so a gram of saffron is actually a lot of work to acquire.  Generally when I using saffron I do like to toast it a bit before using it.  I find that it makes it more aromatic and the color tends to be more intense when you toast it as well.
One of my favorite saffron dishes is saffron dish.  Usually I will make this recipe and then usually use the shrimp in several different dishes, salads, risottos, or with pasta.  There is so much that can be done with this recipe!

Love From Scratch Saffron Shrimp


1 lb. shrimp (frozen, uncooked, or fresh)
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped (you can lessen the amount of garlic, but I like it right at this level)
1/2 cup lemon juice
¼ tsp. saffron (toasted)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet heat the olive oil, lemon juice  and garlic together.  Cook for about 2 minutes on medium high heat.  Add in the shrimp cook until the shrimp becomes opaque. Add the saffron about 1-2 minutes before the shrimp are cooked through.
Once cooked, serve the shrimp immediately or add to the other desired dishes.

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