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Saffron adds exotic flavor and an attractive color to both savory and sweet dishes. To get the most flavor and color, crumble saffron threads and dissolve them in a bit of water before adding to a recipe.
Saffron matches well with dairy. arifa grinds a few threads and blooms in a little water or milk, then mixes this with yogurt and sugar. Procrastibaker adds a pinch to the custard for honey-vanilla ice cream. relizabeth greases a baking dish with olive oil and sprinkles with salt, pepper, and a pinch of saffron, then tops with high-quality ricotta and more salt and pepper and bakes at 350°F for 25 minutes. Serve with salad, bread, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Saffron is also a natural with seafood: Try it in a seafood soup with fennel. JennyHunter steams mussels in a mixture of white wine, cream, shallots, garlic, and saffron, then adds a handful of fresh spinach. “Make sure you have a nice bread to soak up all of the sauce,” she advises.
More ideas: Add saffron to a basic risotto, couscous, plain basmati rice, garlic soup, or scrambled eggs; or try sautéed fennel with almonds, raisins, and saffron
Board Link: Saffron - I need your best recipe!
Soup is a comfort food that changes with the seasons, but certain ones are bliss in a bowl. One key to great soup is using homemade stock, which salsailsa says “makes a huge difference in the final product.”
Here are some soups that make hounds swoon:
• Cream of asparagus soup or crema di asparagi allo zafferano (asparagus soup with saffron)
• Quick avgolemono, orzo, and chicken soup
• Pasta e fagioli
• Corn and crab bisque
• Roasted curried butternut squash, or butternut squash and Fuji apple
• Chicken with dill and mashed potatoes whisked in (to thicken the soup)
Board Link: SOUP, SOUP, SOUP
Chowhounds adore vinegar, and keep many kinds on hand. There are a few that they deem essential, however:
• Red wine, white wine, or champagne vinegar: For salads and recipes
• Balsamic: Inexpensive for cooking, aged for drizzling
• Rice wine: For dipping sauces and Asian recipes
• Apple cider: For homey American cooking
• Sherry: For its sophisticated, nutty flavor in marinades and dressing
Board Link: How many vinegars can I *get by* with?
Balsamic reduction “is my new obsession,” says purple goddess. It’s great as a marinade for lamb, a sauce for fresh strawberries, a dipping sauce. “I’ve even reduced it further, to almost toffee, and drizzled it over bacon!” she adds. “It’s my secret ingredient in curries, too. It gives them a colour and a lift, and no one can guess what it is.”
purple goddess reduces low-to-mid-range balsamic vinegar by slow-boiling it with raw sugar and star anise, though honey and cinnamon work well too, she says. janniecooks leaves out the sugar. “I find that the balsamic reduction, even when using the common lower-cost brands available in the grocery, is quite syrupy and sweet enough on its own without adding any other sweetener,” she says. And don’t reduce it too much. A common mistake is to reduce balsamic until it is so thick you have to heat it before it can flow at all, says bigfellow.
A final tip: “If you’re going to try it, make sure you use a pot bigger than you think you’ll need, and use a wooden spoon for stirring,” says purple goddess. “Once that sucker comes to the boil, and you put the spoon in to stir, it can bubble up like nobody’s business!”
Board Link: Bacon overload. What should be next?