Spanish Roots: Two Saffron Recipes

When I am homesick there is nothing that takes me back to my Spanish roots than garlic, saffron and parsley. For me, it’s as easy as sautéing shrimp in olive oil with lots of minced garlic and parsley. We have a spicy recipe for a very similar Spanish dish, Gambas Pil Pil, or Spicy Sizzling Prawns, in our current issue, along with six others.

Having grown up in Spain a lot of people ask me about my cooking skills. The truth is that my mother, who is American, almost always fixed American-style meals like roasted chicken with mashed potatoes or meatloaf, so my Spanish cooking is fairly limited.

But Spanish home-cooked meals are not very hard to make, the flavors come mostly from the herbs and spices, not from the techniques.

Saffron is one of my favorite spices, probably because it is so intrinsically Spanish, and I try to always have it on hand, even though it is expensive – each strand is picked by hand. The yellow rice from Paella, the famous Spanish rice dish, is flavored and colored with saffron.

Photo by mjlaflaca/Courtesy flickr

There are many other ways to use the spice, such as in Saffron Chicken, which probably has thousands of versions. Mine may be the simplest:

I place a couple of strands in a pan with olive oil and minced garlic, and then pan fry chicken breasts over it. The chicken turns a golden color that reminds me of the sunsets by the Mediterranean. Served over white rice with chopped parsley I feel I am sitting at my friend’s mom’s table.

The scents and flavors of food have a way to bring so many memories out of the depths of my brain. What are some of the flavors that take you to another place and time?

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