Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm just mad about saffron

The rumors are all true: I'm a total foodie.

Many people who know me also know that I love to cook. In fact, one of my favorite things to do is host a dinner party for a few dozen friends, complete with theme ingredient, homemade menu, and custom cocktail.

Credit: Wikipedia
If this event can be combined with a much-anticipated football or hockey game, all the better. But I'm perfectly OK just hanging out with family and friends, hopefully giving them a culinary experience they've never had before.

This year I decided to start my own herb garden. With the exception of the chives that never quite managed to grow properly, the rosemary, cilantro and especially the sweet basil were phenomenal.

You'd be surprised what happens to ordinary pizza when you bake it over a charcoal grill and top it off with fresh basil. Even the frozen store-bought stuff is instantly transformed into something beyond delicious.

It's fall now, and all of my herbs have withered up for the year. Even the rosemary--which is supposed to be evergreen--just couldn't bear the Indian summer weather here in Tennessee, and finally gave up.

My two saffron planters, sitting comfortably
on a sunny dining room window sill.

© Martin Kozicki
All is not lost, however. I placed an order earlier in the summer for some fall-blooming, indoor-growing saffron, imported from the Middle East (or so they claim). It arrived this week in the form of two planters and 10 saffron crocuses (bulbs).

Saffron is an expensive spice. In fact, it's the most expensive spice in the world. In local grocers, I've seen a small container priced as high as $40! So growing my own made sense. From what I gleaned from the planting instructions, each saffron flower will produce three edible stigma, which are clipped and used in cooking. Being extremely potent, even one stigma is enough to flavor an entire dish.

To paraphrase the Bard, herein lies the (spice) rub. I've never cooked with saffron before. I know it is used extensively in many Central American, Middle Eastern, and Asian dishes. But, assuming it actually flowers and doesn't die a horrible death, this will be my first experience using it in my kitchen.

So, I'm looking for some good recipes that make fine use of this pricey little plant. Feel free to email me, or share them in the comments. If I make your recipe, and love it, I'd be happy to reciprocate!


  1. I know about hot spices, but not saffron - sorry!

  2. Oh, I'd be interested in those, too! Monday night we made BBQ chicken with a 16-spice rub and a super spicy sauce. Not "fuse your taste buds together" hot, but more "make your lips tingle and give you that little perspiration on the back of your neck" hot. It was great. So bring on the heat!