Friday, May 22, 2015

Saffron and Squirrels

I've become a squirrel.  From where I sit at my computer, I look out my upstairs window into the branches of a mature pine tree filled with charming Sierra squirrels.  I watch all late summer and fall as they work busily, collecting their winter stash and hiding this treasures throughout my garden, digging in my beds and pots, uprooting my summer annuals in order to stuff in their little hoards.  I always wonder if they'll ever really remember to come back later to collect up whatever it is they've cached away.

And so it is with me, the squirrel.  I've discovered forgotten treasure.  

This week I've been cleaning the top shelf in my spice cabinet.  Yes, I have actually devoted the entire cabinet next to my stove to spices.  They are all on graduated racks and alphabetized.  I admit this sounds a little crazy, but I'm not obsessively organized anywhere else in my life,  I'm just a cook. After all, your cooking is only as good as your ingredients and if you can't find what you need, you might as well not have it.  

So I keep my spices perfectly tidy.  At least, all except the top shelf.  Up there, where I can't reach or see, is where I stow my hoard...apparently.

In my cleaning I reached back into the dark corners of the shelf and retrieved out a long ignored large plastic jar with a screw top lid.  Oops, was my immediate thought the moment I saw it. 

My sister travelled to Egypt a few years ago and brought me back a collection of wonderful fresh spices including lots of beautiful saffron.  She generously brought me a quantity of saffron that seemed like an impossible luxury. An indulgent large baggy full.  I remember at the time thinking how wonderful it will be to lavish it heavily into soups, stews and everyday meals. But somehow this treasure got stuffed into the back of the cabinet where it has remained ever since. I'm ashamed--what kind of a cook does this?

I found five bags of saffron just like this one!

How often in life do we save our best and ultimately never get to use it.  I feel just like that great old auntie who dies never using her wedding china because she was always saving it for "good".  Don't we deserve the best in our everyday lives? 

Well, I may be late to the party, but I sure won't let my self miss it.  I'm cooking with saffron now!  

So here is my recipe for...

Saffron Shrimp and Chickpea Soup

olive oil
2 sweet onions chopped
2 cups celery chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1 32 oz box organic chicken broth
several pinches of saffron as affordable (the more the better!)
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t fennel seeds
1/4 t celery seeds
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t ground coriander
generous freshly ground quality sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
new potatoes  about 10 small potatoes cut in halves or quarters
4 big handfuls of kale
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 lb frozen shelled shrimp

Get out a soup pot and pour several tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom, bringing the heat to medium.  Saute the onions and celery until translucent.  Add the broth, garlic, saffron, thyme, oregano, fennel celery turmeric, coriander, salt, pepper and potatoes.  Cook for 10 minutes.  Add the kale and garbanzo beans and cook for another 10 minutes.  When the potatoes are tender, add the shrimp and cook until pink and done.


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