The Value of Saffron

 macrosaffron_flower

By weight, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, and more expensive than many precious metals…this is due to the fact that saffron must be hand harvested from a special fall crocus flower.  Each crocus flower only produces 3 stigmas (strands of saffron), and it takes over a quarter million strands to produce a pound!

Saffron has been around multi-tasking since about 1000 BC – as I wrote in a previous post – it used to be scattered on the floor of gathering halls and theatres in Greece and Rome to help cover the “scent” of humans :).  Other uses are medicinal – as with most yellow and red foods, it’s really good for you!

As far as food goes…saffron is prized for its honey-hay like flavor and aroma, and of course, the golden yellow color it produces with just a pinch into any sauce, rice, soup, etc.  Buy your saffron in tiny amounts in whole stamen form.  The ground stuff isn’t nearly as good as it has more stuff from the flower to make it weigh more.  If you just can’t bring yourself to spend the $$ when a recipe calls for saffron, try substituting turmeric (VERY good for you).

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses saffron in bread, soups, stews, risottos like our Saffron and Orchid Petal Risotto, and even desserts!  Have you tried saffron in a dish?  Tell us how you liked it here !

White Chocolate – the Impersonator

Dessert White Chocolate Cheesecake

White chocolate isn’t chocolate according to our government.  Thats right – there are different definitions of chocolate all over the world.  In OUR little corner of the world, the US, chocolate is only “real” when it contains only cocoa butter as its fat (except for up to 5% dairy butter to aid in emulsification).  White “chocolate” contains vegetable fat, milk solids, sugar, and vanilla.  Some of the finer labels contain some cocoa butter, but no cocoa solids at all.

The good news?  White chocolate sets faster than dark.  White chocolate also remains soft at room temperature.  This makes it ideal for cakes and buttercreams.  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses white chocolate in some of our desserts – like our White Chocolate Cheesecake.  In what recipe do YOU use white chocolate?  Let us know at http://www.lulasforlunch.com/blog !

Awful Offal (NOT!)

App Brandied Poulet Pate on Slate

Do you like Pate?  Bologna? LIverwurst? Hot Dogs? Chances are you like offal, you just don’t know it.  How about “Sweetbreads with Mignonette Sauce”?

In the United States we tend to squeal a bit when we hear “offal”, but the “parts of an animal that fall off during slaughtering ‘off fall’ ”  are enjoyed and respected the world over.  Eating not only the working muscle of an animal but all parts is the best respect you can show the life that feeds you (you’ve heard me talk about “nose to tail” before…).  Enjoying these variety meats also helps to keep the price of the more expensive cuts controlled.

Ever had oxtail stew?  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering’s Oxtail Stew is the BEST!!!

 

Happy Mother’s Day! Memories of Mom and Food

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my maternal peeps – whether your charge has a tail, or fur, or is destined to become President – I’ll just bet memories of YOU contain a bunch of food.  On this, the 2nd mother’s day for me without my mom, I’d like to remember mom’s WEIRD relationship with food, which she mostly didn’t even like, except, well, potato sticks.  Remember potato sticks that came (come) in a can?  They can still be found in strange corners of strange stores…this was more often than not mom’s lunch – at 11:30 sharp, she sat at the kitchen table with her Tab and the can of sticks.  Not surprising, since she ate dirt as a child!  Sticks and dirt – no wonder she didn’t like to eat!  If you know where to source Potato Sticks let me know – I love them too (in moderation, of course!).

Mom thought some things just tasted better if you stole them. Let me be clear: my mother did NOT consider it stealing.  She was “performing a service” – the pears were obviously going to rot and the pecans were going to get stolen by the squirrels.   My poor brother and sister (somehow I escaped this embarrassment) were hauled each summer and fall to farms that ran alongside the road with their pecan and pear trees hanging heavy, and spent the day picking, plucking, hiding and dodging.  These pears, along with all of the other vegetables that were grown in our garden, were put up for use all winter long (which in SC lasts less than 4 months – the rest of the year the garden yielded).  I never really cared for pear sauce, but it adorned the oatmeal I truly hated many mornings before school. Yum.  Not.  Never did I taste a canned vegetable until I went away to college.  Even our okra (yuck) was frozen.  To this day one can attend Irmo SC’s Annual Okra Strut.

More momentous for me was The Chitlin Strut – held annually (still) in Salley SC.  Man, we South Carolinians know how to party.  Salley has (had?) fabulous clothing outlets so the 1 hour drive was filled with anticipation for me as a teenager.  The chitlins did not fill me at all, ever.

Speaking of offal, my mother had a (let’s put this kindly) mischievous streak.   Once when in Italy, we were with a small group of 7 and dinner was cafeteria style.  Items were labeled and one tray, labeled “Trippa” looked enticing to American eyes as it was laced with a fabulous marinara and provolone.  Our companion was on mother’s last nerve so she elbowed me and winked, while (let’s call her Debra) oohed and aahed over the “Trippa” and asked mom what it was.  Mother said “Tripe!  It’s beef! It’s delicious!  Try some!”  So Debra did.  I didn’t know what the joke was as I had yet to be introduced to offal of any kind other than the cow’s liver that my grandfather loved, my grandmother served, and made something else for me and herself.    Turns out Debra thoroughly enjoyed the tripe until she was finished and my mother made sure to finish the explanation.  Tripe is the stomach lining of the cow, and sometimes sheep.

Mom did love two things edible: fish and vegetables.  We had a boat and daddy fluctuated between salt water and fresh water fish – almost always caught by daddy.   A consequence of this was fish for breakfast.  Not really so unusual down south – but most everybody I tell think it’s weird.  To this day I eat fish for breakfast sometimes.  Yum (for real this time!).   Mom also loved shellfish – she loved to crab and did not mind (too much) the picking of the crabs, mostly because daddy was such a big help, which is a messy business.  Every time we went near the beach we would haul back fresh shrimp and cleaning them mom DID mind.  She would place newspapers on the floor between our breakfast room and the den where she could see the TV and watch her “stories”, and sit there and cuss (she was a champion) while she shelled and deveined what seemed like ENDLESS shrimp.

Thanks for allowing me this trip down mom’s food memory lane.  It was fun! Click here to visit our website and check out our Mother’s Day Menu!