Saffron & Basil

For my Stocks, Soups and Sauces class, we had to write a paper on one spice and one herb.  I thought I’d post a few excerpts of my paper because spice and herb I picked hold a lot of meaning for me.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but this isn’t why I chose to write about it.  My dad might argue with that, but I chose it because saffron was a big part of my mother’s cooking.  My mother’s side of the family is Spanish and I grew up eating arroz chico, arroz con pollo and chile verde, all dishes that contain saffron.  Nearly every time we ate rice, it was made with saffron.  I now make these dishes in my own kitchen and every time I open my precious jar of saffron, the smell takes me back to the kitchen at my parent’s house.  It is a spice I hold near and dear to my heart, for it was my mother who first taught me to cook.  I used to hover around her in the kitchen trying to see how she was cooking and making her explain to me everything she was doing.

My mom and my dad are who I credit for cultivating my interest in food.  My mom taught me to cook from a pretty young age and showed me what she was cooking in the kitchen.   She taught me that cooking for people is a way to say “I love you.”  The first sandwich I ever made my dad was a green pepper, cut in half and placed between two slices of bread.  He ate the whole sandwich, and probably told me he loved it too.  My dad encouraged me to experiment-I found a paella recipe when I was younger and wanted to make it.  We proceeded to dirty nearly every pot and pan in our kitchen making it.  It was damn good!

Basil, unlike saffron, is not the most expensive herb in the world, but its pungent and aromatic scent is one that most can identify by smell or taste.  Basil is another herb that was used frequently in my parent’s kitchen, especially in pesto sauce.  Pesto is a pretty basic sauce, but it has applications in the kitchen.  One of my other favorite meals my mother cooked was pesto sauce mixed with fresh pasta and paired with an oven- roasted salmon.  This is the meal that my sister and I both request every time we go home.  The freshness of the pesto sauce is what I like best.  None of the ingredients are cooked, so all of them retain their unaltered, natural flavor.  Basil will always remind me of home, as my mother used to always make us sniff the package of basil before she chopped up its leaves for pesto.

I could eat pesto by the spoonful.  It’s such an easy, basic sauce, but when paired with another ingredient, it elevates the dish to the next level.  Food doesn’t have to be complicated and take you hours to make.  Pesto takes 10 minutes max and it’s the greatest tasting thing ever.  Basil is one of a few kitchen smells that remind me of home.  Saffron, cumin and garlic and onions cooking in olive oil all trigger very strong memories of my parent’s kitchen.

I hope you enjoyed reading a little bit of my paper!  I’ll be turning that bad boy in tomorrow morning at 6 am sharp.  I’ve got to go set my alarm clock.  Be well & happy eating.

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