Saffron is a beautifully fragrant spice that enhances dishes with both a distinct flavor and a bright orange-yellow hue. We've never cooked with saffron before - perhaps because it's the most expensive spice in the world - but decided to splurge ($5.99 for a 0.02 oz or 0.7 g small container at Trader Joe's) as we were entertaining friends at home.
We learned that saffron is the stigma of these beautiful purple flowers at left (photo taken by Gut Gimritz).
Each flower only has a couple of stigmata, so you can imagine how many flowers are required to fill a small jar.
Given that fact, paying $6 for saffron (or essentially a whole bouquet of flowers) didn't seem so bad!
We decided to highlight this spice in a simple, vegetable-rich couscous dish.
Moroccan Couscous with Saffron (simplified and adapted from The Kind Diet)
Ingredients (serves 5-6):
2 cups peeled butternut squash, chopped
2 cups yellow onion, large dice
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups zucchini, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Place the squash, onion, carrots, and zucchini on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once with a spatula about midway through.
4. While the vegetables roast, make the couscous mixture: Heat vegetable broth, and stir in the butter, cumin, saffron, and black pepper and salt to taste. Add the couscous and cook until couscous is done.
5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and scrape them plus their juices into the pan with couscous.
6. Turn off the stove. Add the scallions, cover with lid, and allow to stand for 15 minutes. This will let the flavors meld together as well as slightly cook the scallions.
7. Toss the couscous and vegetables with a fork and serve.
If you are looking for a satisfying vegetarian meal, try this one out. With our new-found appreciation for saffron, we will definitely be using this spice again!