Risotto is not exactly a make-ahead food—no matter what tricks you use, it always requires last-minute finishing right before serving. But by using the tricks we developed for rice balls, it's possible to turn a classically a-la-minute dish into a make-ahead baked casserole. Like baked mac-and-cheese, but with rice.
'saffron' on Serious Eats
This ice cream is all about balance: heady saffron, floral honey, and bittersweet orange zest.
Bouillabaisse is a classic southern French seafood stew flavored with tomatoes, saffron, and fennel, served with a garlicky mayonnaise-like sauce. Could we make these flavors work with chicken and cut the cooking time down to under half an hour start to finish?
It took me a long time to come around to the prickly artichoke. For the longest time, this vegetable seemed like too much work for too little food--there's peeling, scraping, poking, and snipping involved in most preparations. But in the last few years, I've come to appreciate the slow process as well as the slight grassy sweetness of the heart and the meditative undertaking of eating the flesh off the tiny leaves. Louisa Shafia's stuffed artichokes recipe in The New Persian Kitchen adds another couple layers of greatness to the humble artichoke. To the center she adds a subtly fragrant and fluffy ricotta, egg, and saffron filling that puffs and browns over a long slow roasting time. Drizzled atop is a brilliant mixture of lemon juice, dried mint, and grape seed oil that permeates the delicate leaves a reduced sauce in the pan perfect for greedy dipping and slurping.
Deborah Madison's cauliflower and pasta dish from her new cookbook Vegetable Literacy is a surprise of a recipe. It almost looks like something I'd throw together without thinking, but has a few tweaks that make it stand out from my ordinary dinners. First, she uses what may look like a dangerous amount of red pepper flakes; her scant teaspoon looks menacing compared to my usual pinch or two. Also, she throws in parsley, lots of parsley, in three places--some of it is cooked with garlic to mellow, some of it is wilted into the cooked pasta, and the rest is thrown in at the end for a bright finish. But the real winner here is saffron. The floral taste of saffron always reminds me of bouillabaisse; tasting bites of Madison's cauliflower dish takes my mind to the French stew but for much less time and effort.
Whole pureed oranges make this the moistest cake I've ever had. Ground almonds and a honey syrup complete the Middle Eastern theme.
Could I whip up a batch of saffron stained risotto quickly and easily for a weeknight dinner, while avoiding the temptation to screw it up by adding a bunch of extraneous ingredients to the pot?
When it comes to satisfying soups made with a bunch of pantry staples, we all have a lot to learn from the Spanish. Whereas I see stale bread and too much garlic, they see gazpacho. And where I see a mishmash of potatoes, almonds, and a little bit of ham, Anya von Bremzen in The New Spanish Table sees a remarkably filling potato soup with fried almonds.
Use Spanish chorizo here, which is a dried sausage made with smoked paprika. Firm, meaty green olives are the best in this recipe. Read up on saffron to make sure you're getting the good stuff.
cauliflower is all potential: what is the whitest, blandest option on the crudite platter becomes deep and nutty when it's cooked with plenty of heat. In the best cauliflower pasta recipes, anchovies make an appearance, usually early on so they melt and disappear into the sauce, leaving only a nutty essence behind. This recipe from Lidia's Italy also brings in the classic Italian combination of pine nuts and raisins, along with the mellow, unmistakable flavor of saffron.
This creamy, buttery risotto is flecked with stands of lightly toasted saffron which colors it a deep, bright yellow. Although the risotto is finished with butter and Parmigiano, Ferran Adrià goes a step further by garnishing it with paper-thin slices of mushrooms that lend another level of earthiness and texture to an already great dish.
[Photograph: Carrie Vasios] Loosely adapted from Spain...A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali....
It's rare that sauce also does double duty as the vegetable, but that's the case with this incredible recipe from Moro. The grouper fillets are sauteed in a pan on both sides over medium heat, before adding wine, saffron-infused water, a garlic and bread paste, and a whole heap of peas. The liquid reduces to the point where the peas actually are the sauce. Somehow it works.
There is something about creamy saffron mussel anything that just works. Simple mussels, stewed with sweet, just-burst tomatoes, thick sweet cream, and pungent, almost-bitter saffron. I dare you not to drink the broth like soup.
Made with creamy bases of milk, yogurt, cream, and puréed nuts and seeds, kormas are some of the richest curries around. This Lamb Korma in an Almond-Saffron Sauce from At Home with Madhur Jaffery takes that richness to a whole new level, with chunks of fatty lamb and a sauce made from smooth blended almonds and finished with heavy cream.
I first starting mixing orange and saffron in bouillabaisse. It works so well together, the aromatic bitterness of saffron with the bright sweetness of orange. This is a very simple rice, based on my favorite yellow rice that I get in Spanish and Mexican restaurants, that is glammed up with some ritzy ingredients. I toast orzo and shallots and add white rice, and then cook it with saffron-infused stock for color and a deep, heady flavor. Stud it with toasted pine nuts and orange zest at the last minute, and you have a simple-to-make side that is elegant and impressive. I would serve this with roasted bone-in chicken, or jumbo shell-on prawns.
The eggplant is soft and tender, and just crispy-burnt around the edges. It is draped in a rich sauce of nothing but Greek yogurt and saffron, and the salad is topped with torn fresh basil and crunchy toasted pine nuts.
[Photograph: Max Falkowitz] There are as many recipes for plov, the Uzbek version of rice pilaf, as there are cooks who make it. Choices of meats, vegetables, and spices are up for debate, but all plovs start with more liquid...
The words "milk and honey" were bouncing around in my head when I was thinking about a new bread recipe. I didn't want a sweet bread, though. I wanted something that would be savory and interesting, but also useful for sandwiches.