saffron

Spanish orange & almond tart for Christmas

Last year for the holiday season we made saffron shortbread cookies, and we were feeling bad that we didn't have a new holiday cookie this year. We got to thinking about winter sweets and some of our all-time favorite flavors, and the two sort of came together. Some of the quintessential tastes of Spain are almonds, saffron, and bitter oranges. Why not adapt our standard linzer tart recipe to reflect that different range of flavors? Instead of hazelnuts in the dough, we could use almonds. Instead of vanilla, we could use saffron. And in place of raspberry jam, we could use Seville orange marmalade. (OK, we know that the marmalade is more a Scottish than Spanish flavor, but it does use the bitter oranges of...Read More
Saffron shortbread cookies for festive season

Saffron shortbread cookies for festive season

Peggy Regan of Salon de Té le Gryphon D'Or (www.gryphondor.com) in Montreal is the absolute mistress of shortbread, which you can enjoy at her tea room or order through the mail. When she gave us a shortbread recipe for Food Lovers' Guide to Montreal (see SOME BOOKS), she casually mentioned how the recipe could be adapted to add other flavors. She had in mind flavors like maple and almond. We happen to love shortbread cookies as an accompaniment to Spanish sparkling wine, or cava. So we wondered how another signature Spanish flavor -- saffron -- might taste in shortbread. Since we travel often to Spain, we tend to buy saffron when we come across a good deal or when we're in Consuegra, the premier saffron...Read More

It’s saffron harvest time!

Growing saffron crocuses always seemed like a rather romantic undertaking--until we visited Consuegra, Spain during the harvest season. The dry plains of Castilla La Mancha, about 90 miles south of Madrid, are perhaps best known as the stomping grounds of the befuddled knight Don Quixote. But farmers in the region grow about two-thirds of the world's culinary saffron. It's also the best on the market (just ask any Spaniard). The harvest season is usually the last three weeks in October and is capped by the Saffron Rose Harvest Festival (La Monda de la Rosa de Azafran) in Consuegra on the last full weekend of the month. We visited one year to take part in the festivities--and also got a lesson in the hard work that...Read More

Las Fallas and more paella tips

When we think of Valencia, the first thing we think of is paella. But the city is probably most famous for its jaw-dropping Las Fallas festival always held March 15-19. This year we finally got to attend. It is a whirlwind of parades, music, fireworks, controlled explosions outside city hall, and general madcap revelry that continues around the clock. Valencians construct immensely complex satirical scenes in 300 or more squares of the city. Some of them go 75 feet tall and can cost up to $1 million each. They represent a wide array of political and pop cultural subjects, and the satire can be both biting and bawdy. (Witness Nicolas Sarkozy of France in a hot tub with three buxom women, one of whom is...Read More

Super Bowl arroz con pollo

We were surprised to read recently that Super Bowl Sunday is the second biggest eating holiday in the U.S., close on the heels of Thanksgiving. Since our own team, the New England Patriots, is not part of the action this year, it's a diminished holiday for us. But we thought we could console ourselves with a good meal, and realized that the one dish we've probably eaten most often while watching football is arroz con pollo. Of course, the football in question is what we Americans call soccer, but the Spaniards are every bit as obsessive about it. As in the U.S., tickets to the games are expensive, and the matches are typically broadcast on premium cable. If you want to see a match in...Read More

Making paella Valenciana at home

Paella must be popular worldwide, judging by the recipe we received from the proprietor of Ceramicas Terriols (see below) when we purchased our paella pan. The directions were in a babble of languages, including Chinese and Russian. We can't comment on the clarity of the Chinese and Russian, but the English was, shall we say, tortured. (Sample directions: "When the meat is gilding, the tomato and paprika are thrown well moved till the whole is lightly fried.") Still, we got the gist of it and we wanted to try it when we got home. Since we have to traipse halfway across the city to buy rabbit, we decided to see if chicken thighs would make a good substitute. We can get good periwinkles in our...Read More

Shopping in Valencia for paella tools and ingredients

[caption id="attachment_608" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mercado Central, Valencia"][/caption] After tasting paella at La Pepica (see previous post) , we were able to identify the essential ingredients and seasonings we needed to bring home to recreate the dish. The best place to shop for in Valencia for paella fixings is the soaring Modernista train-shed of the Mercado Central (Tel: 963-829-101. www.mercadocentralvalencia.es, open 7:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Monday–Saturday). It’s one of the largest fresh markets in Spain, perhaps because the area around Valencia is intensively agricultural. The subtropical climate not only permits year-round cultivation of greens and legumes, the swampy lagoons are also home to some of Spain’s most prized rice plantations. You cannot take home the fresh veggies, but you can bring the heirloom rice, the spices, and...Read More