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The Food Goddess is in the Kitchen! I am delighted beyond words to present my friend, my pal, Kali Amanda Browne (daughter of the beauteous and talented Marie) aka The Food Goddess. Enjoy!

Saffron: A Pinch of Comfort

For 3,000 years, saffron has been cultivated and used as an aphrodisiac, cosmetic, dye, medicine, perfume, ritual offering, spice and tea… References to its use are attributed to Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, and even the Bible with a mention in Song of Songs. Saffron, today, is the most expensive spice in the world.

There is something earthy, primal but in a beautiful and sensual sense rather than a brutish way – still it ought to be said that a little goes a long way and ought not be overused because too much of it turns bitter and just 5 grams can turn poisonous.

The National Institutes of Health cites a study done at the Mashhad University of Medical Sciences in Iran that conclusively proves that saffron is an aphrodisiac. The Effect of Saffron, Crocus Sativus Stigma, Extract and its Constituents, Safranal and Crocin on Sexual Behaviors in Normal Male Rats, by Hosseinzadeh H, Ziaee T, Sadeghi A., the study was published in October 2007. (The Case of the Horny Rats wouldn't sound as scientific.) The result of the study was a determination that the frequency of mounting, intromission, and erection, and the latency of mount, intromission and ejaculation were increased or decreased where it really counted.

Let's recap: saffron can take you to the heights of passion or kill you. You know you want some!

Based on Iberian cooking traditions, garlic and saffron soup is a deceptively simple dish that tastes rich and exquisite. It's a small treat for a cold day, comfort food for a sophisticated palate.

Garlic and Saffron Soup

Extra virgin olive oil*
2 cups trimmed bread cubes
6 - 8 large garlic cloves, quartered
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
2 generous pinches saffron threads

Salt and pepper to taste

*The original recipe called for 4 or 5 tablespoons of oil, which we find excessive. You'll need enough oil to sauté the garlic and bread, remember that the oil will be soaked into the bread and end in the soup.

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Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat, add bread and garlic and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until bread is light golden. Add wine, broth and saffron and bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Puree soup in blender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

The original recipe called for sourdough bread but any artisanal bread will do, I love Trader Joe's Focaccini – which adds a slight tang to the base. The bread adds a little heft to the soup; consider as well that it will also affect flavor and seasoning. Vegetarians may use a vegetable stock. Those with dietary concerns may use low-sodium chicken stock. If you have no cooking wine, you may substitute with a couple tablespoons of vinegar. For a slightly different depth, you may sauté the bread and add roasted garlic to coat. If you prefer, you may add a whole head of roasted garlic to the water and use this as stock.

You may top noodles, rice, or couscous with a ladle or two of hot soup. Alternatively you may ladle soup over rough chopped tomatoes for a semi-sweet concoction. Chopped cucumber will add a gentle heft but not affect the flavor. You may ladle soup over homemade croutons or serve in ramekins with a sharp shredded cheese. The adventurers may poach an egg in the simmering liquid for approximately 1 1/2 minute each (or until the egg white firms up).

Top your soup with fresh herbs – chives, dill, parsley or scallions. Refresh each bowl with a dash of extra virgin olive oil for a velvety finish, or some Balsamic vinegar for a snappy comeback of flavor. For a cleaner presentation, use white pepper.

Kali Amanda Browne writes the What's Cooking? column, the Kali: The Food Goddess cookbooks (Kindle and paperback, fiction, two blogs and a Twitter feed of great recipes. Follow her projects at http://amapolapress.weebly.com

(Image source: King Seafood Restaurant, Puerto Rico)

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You can email me at kali.templeofdoom@gmail.com.


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