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Nurturing a Love for Saffron

My granddaughter has to make an Elizabethan cake for her class. The recipe calls for a pinch of ground saffron. Is there something less expensive I can use in place of the saffron, or what would happen if I just omitted the pinch of saffron?

You mean if you snuck a drop or two of yellow food color in, instead of using that wickedly expensive saffron?

Saffron imparts a lovely flavor note and color to many dishes. In our mind's taste buds, we can appreciate the hint of flavor that saffron would add to your granddaughter's cake. Will her wolverine-like classmates notice it as they gorge themselves on the briefly beautiful cake? Quite likely not. Not one of them is going to scratch his ribs and say, "hey, that would have been better with a pinch of saffron in it." (If one does, please send him immediately to work at Ochef!)

In the immortal words of Suze Orman*, whom we have now quoted twice at Ochef (and which for a few people is probably two times too many), "You have been approved." Scratch the saffron.

But do find a recipe that you can make for a special lunch with your granddaughter, where you can introduce her to saffron's unique flavor profile. Saffron has most traditionally been paired with rice, seafood, or chicken. Among the classic dishes are Paella; Risotto alla Milanese; Spanish Rice and its cousin Saffron Rice; the French Rouille, the red-garlic sauce that is the traditional accompaniment to Bouillabaisse; and quite a variety of Indian dishes (including rice and chicken, but also added to yogurt, milk, and desserts).

We do not think you should be afraid of saffron whether or not Ms. Orman thinks you can afford it.

*For the small segment of the world that does not know, Suze Orman is a not-shy broadcaster who dispenses financial advice on TV. In her segment, "Can I Afford It?," people call in, asking her if they have the financial means to purchase the trip, motorcycle, or handbag of their dreams. Either they have $7.6 million in assets and want to buy an extra-large box of paper clips ("You have been approved!"), or, as is the case with the other 99.89% of callers, they have no resources and want to purchase something that costs $7.6 million ("You have been denied!"). That segment, at least, is not exactly rocket science.

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