We’re sure you’ve heard of saffron and possibly even seen its golden product or the purple crocus flower it comes from. But, do you know what saffron actually is and how to use it?
No one can quite agree where saffron originated but from ancient Minoans to 13th century Moors, the Ottoman empire, and the kitchens of Spain and France, it has played an important part in history. Because its flowering was among the earliest signs of spring, the Minoans considered it an emblem of the power of Mother Earth. It was traditionally used to make dyes for clothes and was infused into everyday food products like milk and bread. Considered an aphrodisiac, it also signified wealth and was actively used by Cleopatra and Alexander the Great.
What is Saffron and Why Use It?
The rumors are true. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world due to its labor-intensive harvesting process. The stamens of the Crocus sativus flower must be harvested by hand before damp, wind or age get in the way. However, the benefits and flavors that saffron adds to a dish are considered worth the price.
The spice is a powerful antioxidant due to phytochemical such as crocin, crocetin, and safranal. Consuming saffron could help fight inflammation, protect brain cells, and improve memory.
Saffron is also thought to be an aphrodisiac. Elevate any meal to a romantic level with a little pinch of saffron. It has been shown to increase libido, especially in those taking antidepressants. With these health benefits, you may be wondering why you haven’t added it to your recipes sooner.
How to Use Saffron
You can either grind saffron into a powder or steep it in hot water before adding to your dish. Saffron adds a subtly sweet floral along with slight but enriching piquant sensation. It can, however, become overwhelming in larger amounts. Usually when a recipe calls for a pinch, you’ll want to use from 12 to 20 threads. Using more could turn your recipe into a bitter mess.
If you’re looking for recipes that use saffron, we have a list to get you started. After you learn the basics of how it tastes and where to use it, you’ll be making your own creations in no time. Maybe you’ll even come up with the next best saffron recipe! If you do, please share it with us!
Saffron can play a great role in both sweet and savory dishes. It actually compliments the limoncello and lemon olive oil in our Aphrodisiac Lemon Saffron Tort and helps highlight the tart lemony essence. It’s a perfect way to end a date night with its aphrodisiac properties and moist, dense texture.
Experience the ethereal allure of saffron-infused cream topped with a delectable sauce of butter, honey, and bourbon as you savor the lusciousness of this Italian Panna Cotta. Indulge in a delicate dance of flavors and textures resulting in a subtle sweetness that lingers on your palate.
Whether enjoyed as a side dish or a main course, our Spring Time Salad with Saffron Vinaigrette is sure to delight your taste buds and nourish your body with a refreshing mix of seasonal greens, juicy avocado, and tangy feta cheese crumbles. Topped with crunchy roasted chickpeas and dressed in a light saffron vinaigrette, you’ll be coming back for seconds.
Layers of flavors go into the broth of this Sopa de Mariscos, starting with onions, carrots, fennel, several herbs and spices, saffron, tomatoes, and lobster stock. Upon this rich base, the rest of the dish builds to a crescendo with salt cod, calamari, monkfish, tuna, shrimp, and a flurry of mussels.
This delectable seafood recipe results in a filet of tender, flaky salmon over creamy saffron risotto. The risotto absorbs the flavor of the saffron to create a light base for the salmon without overpowering it. Add on a bundle of roasted asparagus and you’ve got a delicious weeknight dinner.
Story by Kylie Thomas
Subscribe to TABLE Magazine‘s print edition.