Friday, March 16, 2012

I'm Just Mad About Saffron

Ever since I tore ligaments in my left ankle I have been in a prison of inactivity. Even though I try to act normal (and yesterday I went for an extended hike with my husband and my Cinco), I’m not. Daily, the pain reminds me that I need to get off my foot/feet.

So how have I filled the time normally dedicated to working out? By cooking.

Of course, when one combines inactivity with cooking, it’s a recipe for weight gain. So that, in a word, sucks. But I think the potato salad I made yesterday was worth it. It’s because I discovered a secret ingredient and used it for the first time.

What was it?

Wow. Who knew?

I knew saffron was a spice and had seen it used on cooking shows, but I never actually considered it. Growing up, I thought it was girl’s name and Donovan (or a guy named MELLOW YELLOW) was mad about a girl with this name. But yesterday in the spice aisle at Safeway, I learned that saffron is the most uniquely packaged, and most expensive spice available. A .06 oz jar cost me $19.49.

Saffron is a “carefully selected portion of the flower of crocus sativus. It is a pleasantly bitter spice used as much for its golden yellow color as for its subtle flavor.”

Call it Mellow Yellow.

In its raw form the fibrous strings may be bright cerise; however, once I used it in a white wine reduction, my potion became bright yellow. And when I mixed it with light mayo for the potato salad, magic happened. 

I couldn’t stop dipping my finger into the mixture and “testing” it for flavor. Alas! Look what it did to my nails!

Trust me, once I added the saffron mayo mixture to boiled new potatoes, along with fresh cilantro, mint, red onion and grape tomatoes, what I served my family for dinner last night was far more attractive than the hands that served them.

21 oz. red or new potatoes, peeled and diced to 1 inch. (I also used baby Dutch yellow potatoes).
1/2 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
Approx. 18-24 grape tomatoes (cut in half)
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
3-5 TBLS coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 TBLS chopped fresh mint
7 oz. LITE mayonnaise

Saffron Reduction:
1 tsp. saffron in 1.8 oz white wine, reduced down until all the color has come of the threads and only 1 TBLS is left
Sea salt and pepper to taste
2 TBLS lemon juice

Place the potatoes in a large sauce pan and cover them with cold water. Bring the potatoes to a boil, then reduce heat and let them simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until they are tender yet firm. While boiling the potatoes, place the mayo in a bowl and slowly add the saffron reduction and lemon juice. Mix well and season.

Drain the potatoes in a colander and place them in a large bowl. Lightly toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Stir into saffron mayo and add to potatoes. Let the mixture cool.

Shortly before serving mix in the tomato, onion, salt, pepper, cilantro and mint.

Serves six

* variation on recipe offered on Today Show website

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