My epiffany of the day was the discovery of saffron. Oh, I’ve been cooking with it for years – but I mean I DISCOVERED where it really comes from. Saffron is simply the pistils (OK, that’s the sexual organs) of a tiny crocus called “Crocus Sativus”. Each flower has only 3 pistils. So how many beautiful crocus flowers does it take to make a Paella? Hundreds.
Saffron is believed to originate in Kashmir. The Pharaoh’s doctors prescribed it for stomach aches in ancient Egypt. It was introduced to Europe by the Phoenicians, and later brought home by the Crusaders. Saffron is bright red, and when diluted becomes a brilliant yellow color. In ancient Greece it was used as a dye. And it is used to color monks’ robes in India.
Some popular uses for saffron are Middle Eastern rice dishes, saffron rice, lamb with saffron, Indian biryani, paella, risotto alla milanese, and bouillabaisse.
You can buy saffron strands in most grocery stores. You’ll pay a lot less in an ethnic store, such as Spanish, Indian or Middle Eastern grocery. Skip the powdered saffron and go for the whole pistils – the tiny red strips. I’m going to use it today to make Risotto alla Milanese.
So when you enjoy saffron, think about the sexual organs of that beautiful crocus, and smile!