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Nancy's Just Mad About Saffron

Nancy Leson
Nancy's saffron and favorite mortar she grinds it in.

Sometimes my mind has a mind of its own.  "I know," it thought.  "Let's order pricy, self-indulgent food stuff online."  And so I did.

"Alright, mister," Nancy Leson demanded.  "Who are you and what have you done with Stein?"

I'd succumbed to the dangerous combination of being online and bored, with a few extra end-of-month  bucks.  But now I'm glad I got the stuff.  Well, two thirds glad anyway.

I'd been looking at the olive oils produced by the Katz  Family Ranch and decided to try a bottle.  When I read the description of their La Mancha saffron, grown just south of Madrid I decided to try a gram of that, too.  Then I saw the fennel pollen and the quote from food writer Peggy Knickerbocker "If angels sprinkled a spice from their wings this would be it." 

"Can't argue with that," I thought and clicked Add to Basket.  So how'd I like all this stuff?

Credit Stein / KNKX
Olive oil, La Mancha Select saffron and fennel pollen from Katz Ranch.

The Olive Oil.  Definitely way better than what I've been buying in the supermarket.  A light peppery flavor.  I'll be using this for dipping and vinaigrettes.

The SaffronLa Mancha Select.  Strongest saffron aroma I've ever smelled.  Haven't cooked with it yet because after three full weeks my broken stove is still Waiting for the Electrician (or someone like him).

The Pollen. A  powerful scent of fennel.  The flavor?  Eh, not so much.  Nance says "There was a time when I couldn't go into any little bistro and not have fennel pollen strewn over everything."  As usual, I'm five years behind the times.

Nancy Weighs In on Evoo. "I have long been a fan of lots of different kinds of olive oils.  Her collection, pictured below includes from left to right: Kirkland from Costco for everyday cooking, Trampetti available at DeLaurenti's, Pike Place Market and online, California Olive Ranch ("Available everywhere, even Bartell's"), McEvoy Ranch at Met Market and online.


Saffron.  Nance likes Cyrus brand saffron,  grown right in Washington State at Lake Chelan, When using saffron always  grind the thread a bit in a  mortar and then "bloom" it in hot, not boiling liquid -- water, stock first. 

Way back, Nancy's Persian boyfriend taught her to add a pinch of sugar to act as an abrasive when grinding.  Her Persian cooking teacher, Najmieh Batmanglij suggests adding a bit of rose or orange water, too.  Here's Batmanglij's recipe for Persian Saffron Rice.

"A man who is stingy with saffron is capable of seducing his own grandmother."  – Norman Douglas

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.

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